5 Puzzle-Themed Novels Inspired by Popular Escape Rooms

in Fiction by

After watching Leonard and the gang conquer an escape room on The Big Bang Theory, I knew I had to check it out. I also knew there was no possible way I’d be as fast as them (I mean, they’re ridiculously good):


Regardless, it still looked like fun. So when I heard about an escape room opening near me, I jumped at the chance to go.

Guys, let me tell you: it was SO. FUN. I was locked in a room with five other people and we had to solve our way out of it. Like The Big Bang Theory, we had a premise — ours was that we’d been kidnapped — and there were a series of clues set up around the room that led to different keys and locked boxes, eventually leading to a combination that opened the main door. The clues were a lot harder than I thought they’d be and required a lot of work to decipher. Or maybe we just didn’t have as many advanced degrees as Leonard and his nerd friends. In the end we did make our way out (only 25 percent of people do!), and we even set a record. Humble brag over now, I promise.

If you love puzzles as much as I do, I highly recommend an escape room adventure. Or you can read these five books, which feature mind-bending clues and puzzles of their own:

The Da Vinci Code: The Young Adult Adaptation, Dan Brown (Delacorte Press, September 13, 2016)

Puzzle Themed Novels Da Vinci Code_approved.inddBrown’s classic about religious symbology professor Robert Langdon gets a younger makeover this coming September. Now teens can enjoy the hit novel too, with a new version specifically aimed at a young adult audience. I’m guessing there will be less of the dense religious parts of Brown’s mega-hit novel and a lot more of the adventurous parts as Langdon and cryptologist Sophie run through Paris solving complicated clues in a race against time. Regardless, this is the ultimate novel for puzzle-aficionados of any age.




The Tournament, Matthew Reilly (Gallery Books, March 29, 2016)

the-tournamentHistory and chess have never been so exciting as in Reilly’s international bestseller, which was originally published in 2013. In the mid-1500s, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire invites all the European kings to an epic chess tournament. But when the guests arrive (including a young Queen Elizabeth I), mysterious and brutal deaths start occurring. Not to mention all the corruption and sexual affairs. Chess isn’t just happening in the tournament it turns out, and Elizabeth must navigate the deadly political games that are playing out around her.




Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2000)

Harry_Potter_and_the_Goblet_of_Fire_(US_cover)Out of all the Harry Potter novels, Goblet of Fire remains my favorite – mostly because of the cool Triwizard Tournament that brings witches and wizards from all over the land to convene at Hogwarts for a three-part test of strength and wit. After being set up to enter the tournament, Harry must solve a series of puzzles and heroic acts in order to survive the deadly tasks that eventually lead to the treacherous Triwizard Maze. This novel also has the first school dance at Hogwarts (and our heroes/heroines starting to discover romance!) AND a glimpse into the International Quidditch World Cup. Perfect for fans of puzzle-solving or just great storytelling. #CedricDiggoryForever


Presumed Puzzled: A Puzzle Lady Mystery, Parnell Hall (Minotaur Books, January 19, 2016)

51pp228QnMLThis is the 17th book (!!) in Parnell’s popular series about Cora Felton, an expert puzzle lady and part-time detective. In this latest installment, Cora is looking for a client’s straying husband. When she finds him dead in his living room, it’s time for her to solve the puzzle-heavy crime. From Sudoku to crosswords, every little clue helps point Cora toward the right culprit. But can she solve the crime in time, or will someone else get blamed for the murder? Pick up the newest Puzzle Lady mystery to find out.




The Codex, Douglas Preston (Tor, 2005)

136640The Codex is like The Amazing Race turned deadly. After adventurer Maxwell Broadbent dies, he has his body and fortune hidden somewhere in the world. Now it’s up to his three sons to find the treasure – only, they’re not the only ones looking. It’s a hunt that spans continents, and the reward might be far greater than just a half a billion dollar treasure, including a possible cure for cancer. This is a nonstop, action-packed novel about a greed-driven quest, complex clues and the ultimate prize for whoever can win it.

Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Go to Top