Looking for something twisty and puzzling? The Puzzle Master by Danielle Trussoni took some turns I definitely wasn’t expecting. Read on to hear more about them and find out if I liked it!
All the world is a puzzle, and Mike Brink—a celebrated and ingenious puzzle constructor—understands its patterns like no one else. Once a promising Midwestern football star, Brink was transformed by a traumatic brain injury that caused a rare medical condition: acquired savant syndrome. The injury left him with a mental superpower—he can solve puzzles in ways ordinary people can’t. But it also left him deeply isolated, unable to fully connect with other people.
Everything changes after Brink meets Jess Price, a woman serving thirty years in prison for murder who hasn’t spoken a word since her arrest five years before. When Price draws a perplexing puzzle, her psychiatrist believes it will explain her crime and calls Brink to solve it. What begins as a desire to crack an alluring cipher quickly morphs into an obsession with Price herself. She soon reveals that there is something more urgent, and more dangerous, behind her silence, thrusting Brink into a hunt for the truth.
The quest takes Brink through a series of interlocking enigmas, but the heart of the mystery is the God Puzzle, a cryptic ancient prayer circle created by the thirteenth-century Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia. As Brink navigates a maze of clues, and his emotional entanglement with Price becomes more intense, he realizes that there are powerful forces at work that he cannot escape.
Ranging from an upstate New York women’s prison to nineteenth-century Prague to the secret rooms of the Pierpont Morgan Library, The Puzzle Master is a tantalizing, addictive thriller in which humankind, technology, and the future of the universe itself are at stake.
Alright so first of all, let it be said that I love puzzles. I’ve been doing crossword puzzles and variety puzzle books since I was a kid! Before I was old enough to do those, I was always said when the activities were done in my coloring books and all that was left were pictures to color. Yes, I’m an NYT games subscriber. The Sunday puzzle often takes me upwards of 2 hours (broken up of course…I have a 5-year-old 🤪), but I struggle through it until it’s done. Hit me up if you want to chat Wordle stats 😃.
Anyway, when I saw the title of The Puzzle Master and read the synopsis, I knew immediately I had to read it. Puzzles! Patterns! Cyphers! Cryptic ancient prayer circle! Secret library rooms! Heck yes, sign me up! I jumped into this read with wild abandon.
It started out pretty much as expected, meeting Mike Brink, catching up on his backstory, and delving into his magnificent savant brain. There are even puzzles of his printed right in the pages of the book!
I loved the mysterious call he gets about Jess Price, and his initial meeting with her totally fed my curiosity. I enjoyed everything about the book for the first third or so, and was really excited to see what the strange puzzle was and why Jess Price was such a doomed character.
Then comes the part I reeaaally wasn’t expecting. This isn’t really a spoiler, but I do mention something here that the synopsis does not, so make your choice to keep reading here or not. Anyway, the book is just cruising right along and then bam: creepy dolls enter the picture. GAH that’s not what I thought this book would be about 😆. I’m not saying it was bad…it just wasn’t what I was thinking was going to be the direction of this puzzle-y thriller.
Like any good thriller, the story gets pretty nuts. There are bad guys chasing good guys, good guys running out of time, and so on. I have to say I thought about this book at times during the day, looking forward to picking it up again in the evening to see what else would be thrown at me. Where would the creepy doll storyline go? I had to find out.
I have to say I did end up mostly enjoying this thriller, even though the creepy doll storyline threw me off. There was just one part that didn’t make a ton of sense to me. It’s hard to go into here for fear of spoilers, but the “bad guy mastermind” in this story acted in strange ways I couldn’t understand. One minute he’s basically kidnapping our main character, and the next minute he’s letting him look at secret documents alone in a room with an important person with the knowledge he needs to solve his puzzle. He may not know the person has the knowledge but…I was confused as to how that was happening.
At any rate, The Puzzle Master overall was fun and twisty and entertaining. If you’re a puzzle lover like I am, you’ll love all of the puzzle references throughout. 3.5 good stars from me!