Bestselling and award-winning author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood traveling around the world on their research trips, and now lives outside San Francisco and writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist Mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Learn more about Gigi and her books at her website.
Cozy in Cambodia
I’ve always loved armchair travel, like the adventure mysteries of Elizabeth Peters and Aaron Elkins, and also real world travel (in spite of the fact that I’m tall so airplane seats aren’t fun!). When I began writing mysteries, I knew I wanted to write books that involved the same sense of adventure.
My Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries are cozy adventures, a cross between Indiana Jones and Agatha Christie, featuring a historian who solves present day crimes linked to historical treasures. Jaya Jones is a history professor who travels from San Francisco to a different foreign destination in each book. So far Jaya’s quests have led her to the Highlands of Scotland, the fabled Mont Saint Michel in France, the southern tip of India, the Park of Monsters in Italy, the Kyoto region of Japan, and now, to Paris and the temples of Cambodia in The Glass Thief.
Whenever I have the seed of an idea for a new mystery, I go down the rabbit hole of book research, then follow up by traveling to the place where I’d like to set the novel. I planned a trip to Cambodia for The Glass Thief, and because part of the treasure in the book was an ancient stone sculpture, I needed to know more about stone carving in Cambodia.
Cambodia is rich with sandstone, and the Khmer people were masters in the craft of stone carving more than a millennium ago. During the Angkorian Empire, skilled stone carvers built hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu temples with intricate carvings. You might recognize the most famous temple, Angkor Wat. One of my favorite carvings on the temple is a bas-relief that shows not a famous king—but the workers who labored to lift the behemoth stones, sand them so they’d fit together, and carve them into the breathtaking temples that exist to this day.
After visiting several temples, I was ready to try my hand at stone carving. The class I signed up for would only have us carve tea candleholders. How hard could it be? The answer? It’s incredibly difficult!
My husband and I spent one morning learning how to carve out of sandstone. At the end of several hours of chiseling, sanding, and soaking the stones in water to smooth the jagged edges, we each had a candleholder in the shape of a lotus flower. And I’ll share a secret: the only reason the end result looks as good as it does is because our wonderful instructor helped us smooth out the edges. But now I have a wonderful souvenir that reminds me of the trip I took to one of the most generous and inspiring countries I’ve ever visited.
The Glass Thief
A locked-room mystery at a Paris mansion. A supposed ghost haunting a French family who looted treasures from Cambodia. A reclusive thriller author writing a novel in honor of historian Jaya Jones—is it a work of fiction or a devious way to lure Jaya into solving the impossible crimes in Paris?
Historian Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to Paris and Cambodia to solve two impossible crimes before a killer strikes again and a priceless treasure vanishes forever.