The Puzzle Master | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"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, calculate equations, and see patterns in ways ordinary people can’t. But his condition has also left him deeply isolated, unable to fully connect with other people.
All of this changes after Brink meets Jess Price, a woman serving thirty years in prison for murder. Traumatized by the crime, Price hasn't spoken a word since her arrest five years before. When she draws a perplexing puzzle, her psychiatrist believes it will explain the crime she committed, and calls Brink to solve it. What begins as a desire to crack a strange and alluring cipher quickly morphs into an obsession with the woman who drew the puzzle. Price 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 mysterious prayer circle created by the thirteenth-century Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, one of the most controversial men in the history of Kabbalah. As Brink navigates a maze of clues, and his emotional entanglement with Price becomes more intense, he realizes that there are dark forces at work that he cannot escape."
The Puzzle Master is a mystery novel by Danielle Trussoni.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
I am always on the hunt for books that are similar to Dan Brown's Robert Langdon series, and I was really hoping that this would scratch that itch for me. And it sort of did, but not to the extent I was hoping it would.
We follow Mike Brink, the puzzle master, as he gets entangled in the mystery behind Jess Price, a woman who was sentenced to prison for murder and leaves a clue in the form of a puzzle only for him. The concept initially really intrigued me; a mysterious puzzle, a woman in prison who won't communicate with anyone but the main character, and the mystery behind the two and how they are connected. Interesting concepts, which to a degree held my attention, but it wasn't executed the best.
What ended up drawing me a bit away from the story is the fact that the story removed itself a bit from the puzzle aspect. I was really excited to read a mystery centred around puzzles as I thought it would have made for a really intriguing premise. However, the story was more or less just a normal mystery as the author didn't commit too much to integrating the puzzles into the story.
Not even the normal mystery stayed normal, however, as the story ended up moving way further from reality than I expected. Don't get me wrong, I love a good supernatural twist, but I don't think this story needed one. Again, I would have been entirely satisfied if the story just focused on the mystery and interweaved puzzles into it, but sadly it didn't which is why I ended up being disappointed. The book also didn't manage to achieve that delicate balance between the believable and the unbelievable.
Another aspect of the story that disappointed me a bit was Mike's characterization. The idea of his character sounded good on paper; a man with acquired savant syndrome who sees in puzzles. This is as close to OP as you can get with a story rooted in reality, and I love a good OP character. Again, though, the author didn't fully commit to his characterization. For someone who is as smart as he is supposed to be, he had some horrible instincts and kept dismissing vital information as nothing which didn't line up with his character. In all honesty, I would rather read a story following Dr. Gupta, because I love eccentric characters and he was far more interesting to read about.
What I also struggled with was Mike and Jess's connection. This ended up being a pretty crucial element of the story, but their connection happened too abruptly and didn't have the time to be fleshed out, which resulted in a flat storyline.
As someone who loves history, some of the subject matter did pique my interest, but it ended up getting bogged down by all the other elements. Still, though, I did moderately enjoy myself. Was this exactly what I wanted this to be, no, but it presented a decent mystery.