The Puzzle Master

by Danielle Trussoni

pub date: 13-June-2023 Random House

the puzzle master cover

Publisher’s Summary:

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.


This review is courtesy of NetGalley’s advanced copy. The Puzzle Master by Danielle Trussoni has the fast pace and religious controversy of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. Trussoni’s protagonist Mike Brink has developed extraordinary knowledge and skills after a traumatic brain injury. While it ruined his plans for a life in football, it opened up a world of MIT and a world renowned reputation for being one of the best puzzle creators and solvers in the world. Brink is in fact similar to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon with an exception: Trussoni allows Brink to have sexual and sensual desires which play out with a zest for romantic “bodice-ripping” passion.

Brink is able to travel to a higher realm which is a not a parallel universe. It’s not Heaven nor Hell. However, readers who enjoy stories set in universes like that will appreciate what comes into Brink’s life when he’s asked to solve the God Puzzle.

Trussoni does rely on a billionaire antagonist in order to easily explain the source of incredible technology and powerful connections. Jameson Sedge is an adequate villain supported by a stoic henchman, Cam Putney; and a brilliant, helicopter pilot/antiquities expert as a partner, Dr. Anne-Marie Riccard.

Jess Price is a young writer wrongly imprisoned for murder and Mike Brink is supposed to help get her out. He and Jess immediately have supernatural connections that involve passionate visions they share. Before Mike visited her for the first time at the prison, Jess was catatonic. Jess Price is indeed an intelligent person and talented writer. What happened to make her so special and able to reach Mike on another realm? These questions only begin to be addressed at the midpoint with an epic back story.

The midpoint arc is where ancient Judaism and the legend of golems are introduced. The complexity of The Puzzle Master looks like one of Mike Brink’s synaesthesia visions (part of his new life from the brain injury). Judaism, golems, J.P. Morgan, porcelain dolls, quantum computing, life after death, angels and demons, all the way to getting within reach of dismantling the patriarchy in every element of life around the world’s vast cultural sects.

Obviously, tackling the subject of religion is going to upset some readers. I doubt The Puzzle Master will cause the excitement and backlash like The DaVinci Code. Yet, best seller Trussoni does a masterful job in tying threads together most people wouldn’t consider.

The treatment of Lilith is typical and likely to upset feminists and witches of certain traditions. She’s built as a powerful being and her demonic history is quickly explained. However, she’s reduced to a succubus only interested in chasing mortal men. Since the book was already extensively leading readers into religious areas that could be lifelong studies, it’s not without valid editing that Trussoni wouldn’t be able to do Lilith justice.

The dog does not die.


You don’t need to be a savant at math or problem-solving to enjoy The Puzzle Master. If anything, not having a talent for those things makes protagonist Mike Brink play as even more heroic. The mystery of the God Puzzle opens up a complex set of doors for the characters to take like they’re in an M.C. Escher painting. The solutions are found by a few, but they can’t prove it. Nonetheless, despite the Divine Feminine presence, the main female character Jess Price has very little communication though what comes from her is important; she has her own antagonist, Lilith, and there’s no opportunity for Jess to save herself. She’s a damsel in distress to be saved by the male lead, Mike Brink.

Rating: 4 stars

4 stars

Subscribe to my newsletter

Avoid those algorithms! Get news delivered to your inbox. You'll also receive a free short story when you subscribe!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.