Book review: Secret Agent Brainteasers

Secret Agent BrainteasersSecret Agent Brainteasers:
More Than 100 Codebreaking Puzzles Inspired by Britain’s Espionage Masterminds
by Sinclair McKay
288 pages


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Secret Agent Brainteasers is quite an interesting book. It’s indeed a collection of brainteasers – actually quite difficult, I was only able to solve a few. But the book is much more than that.

Each chapter starts by explaining the historical background of spies, highlighting one theme per chapter, and then the teasers of that chapter focus on that theme.

The introduction begins with the hilarious difference between your dream (don’t tell me you have never dreamed about being a spy!) of becoming a secret agent, and the reality of what the job really entails. Anyway, if you still want to give it a chance, you can start your training with this book.

The puzzles here are designed to challenge you on a variety of levels.” Some are historical conundrums, “some have been inspired directly by more modern secret service recruitment tests”, and some are meant “to give you an idea of the practical proficiency needed out in the field”.

Spying is an entire way of looking at the world. It is about observing people, landscapes, texts, and seeing concealed meanings. It is about interpreting language, searching for disguised significance.

So it is perhaps only natural that among the very first recruits into the formalized secret service were poets and writers of fiction.

There’s of course Le Carré (= David Cornwall), but also Graham Greene or Frederick Forsyth, and others.

According to these puzzles, I would be a very bad spy, but I really enjoyed learning a lot about this world, its development along the centuries (obviously, spies started way before the Cold War!), and some of its most famous historical characters, including an episode in Churchill’s life (chapter 2) or some remarkable women like Daphne Park or Dame Stella Rimington. The latter, a former Director General of MI5, is now 84.

VERDICT: A fun way to exercise your little gray cells!

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Do you know of any other good collection of brainteasers?

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook free of charge from the publisher through Edelweiss. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.


5 thoughts on “Book review: Secret Agent Brainteasers

  1. Sounds kind of exciting. I like the historical parts but the brainteasers could be fun, if they don’t make me feel stupid. I just finished le Carre’s latest, Agent Running in the Field.


  2. Pingback: 2019: December wrap-up | Words And Peace

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