top of page


The GCHQ Puzzle Book Review

***This review contains affiliate links (see affiliate disclosure)***

The publisher of this puzzle book is Michael Joseph and the author is the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) which has brain teasers that have been devised by a British organisation whose employees include codebreakers. The GCHQ was founded over a hundred years ago in 1919 and it is a security, cyber and intelligence agency that works for and assists the British government and the country's armed forces. The GCHQ is a 24/7 operation and is currently located in Cheltenham with the building being very eye-catching in appearance as it is doughnut-shaped although when World War 2 took place the organisation was housed famously in Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

The type of puzzles you will find in the book and the skills needed to solve them are all connected somewhat to codebreaking and come in many forms like number puzzles, word association, logic, lateral thinking, noticing details, general knowledge questions, maths, memory, pattern spotting, crosswords, sudoku, sequence puzzles, etc and there are very few clues and hints to help you especially as you move to the more difficult challenges. The puzzles do increase in difficulty as you go along and techniques and skills you have learnt to solve these so-called easier puzzles will be needed and tested further as you encounter the more difficult ones although there are no easy puzzles really. Certain puzzle types will also be repeated throughout the book so you are going to get a lot of practice at solving them with these puzzles, as mentioned, getting more challenging as the book goes along.

There are puzzles that will have answers that it is likely only a British person would likely know which is particularly a problem when for example there is a puzzle with pictures of well-known British figures you have to be able to identify that would be well known to a Brit but maybe not to anyone else so for international readers this will be a bit of an issue as how do you search for a person without knowing their name from just a picture and without looking up the answer but there are not that many of these questions so it is not too much of an issue and the puzzles that involve stated British facts and information will be obviously much easier to look up and research so anyone will be able to have a go at them.

The book has 368 pages in total and hundreds of challenges within the midst of those pages with some being very tough indeed so this will take you a significant amount of time to wade through, maybe days for just one puzzle, depending of course on your own ability and as it is relatively light in weight and small in size so it makes for a good travellers item when vacationing or passing the time on the daily commute to work that is one you can easily come back to. The puzzle questions will require you to have a good reading level to understand them and you will have to first decipher what they are asking for before you even attempt to solve them although this does vary from question to question.

The book has been written by an organisation of actual codebreakers and this is what gives it both its uniqueness and authority and this will lead to the readers wanting to know if they would have what it takes to work for the organisation, as there are some real-life entrance questions included, that has undertaken some very important and historic codebreaking missions and in which some of the brainiest people in the country work for.

This is not just a puzzle book but a history book on cryptography from the first half of the 1900s to modern times in Britain and you will learn about all the different challenges during this period from World War 2 in which the Enigma code was solved to the issues that come about from a present-day phenomenon the internet. The book does a good job of celebrating the important figures in the organisation's history with Alan Turing maybe the most famous of them all but many of whom you will probably not of heard of but have done some extraordinary things. It also shows you the various equipment they have used over the years to crack certain cases and how they did this so you will get a clear idea of just how much technology has changed over a relatively short period of time and maybe what the future holds.

The book has pictures to illustrate the puzzles as they are essential to them not just to make them look nice and has photos to teach you about the history and people of the GCHQ and its employees and it makes the book a more entertaining read because of this with some of the pictures being of colour that breaks the book up and isn't just you being bashed over the head by one puzzle after the other. It has tried to and has mostly achieved its purpose of setting really difficult and challenging brain teasers in a fun way that will broaden their appeal to more than the brain puzzle or codebreaking enthusiasts as there are some pop culture references in there for example that help to do this.

When trying to solve some of the puzzles you may want to have with you something to write with and on as some of the puzzles do require a lot of working out and maybe access to the web in order to look up some of the challenges set through a search engine as they may demand general knowledge you might not possess.

This is a book designed for the individual to work through rather than a group task although it could be used to set quiz questions if you have family members or friends who are particularly good at brain puzzles as a way of making it a more fun experience.

The replayability of the book is quite high because it contains a lot of interesting facts about the GCHQ that you can always come back to as you will inevitably forget some of these facts and the puzzles are also complicated enough that you may forget the answer or the method to solve them so could come back to it over a certain period of time and try it again without immediately knowing or remembering the answer.

The puzzles contained in this book are all difficult but can still vary also as they can go from simple but tough to extremely challenging and super complex with many levels to them. This is a book for people who really like being challenged and forced to think about an answer that is not immediately obvious. It will be difficult for someone who is not of high intelligence to figure these out and will require plenty of patience as the challenges can take a long time to figure out and work through with the answers sometimes being very obscure. The level of difficulty may also depend on what type of puzzle you personally find difficult as there is a range of different puzzles within the book in which you may find a certain type of puzzle easy and another very challenging. If you are a relative novice to brain teasers then I would save this book for later when you have your level up to a high standard.

In conclusion, a book that is ideal for a person who likes high-level challenges or sees themselves as a bit of a codebreaker and there are a vast amount of these challenging brain teasers to get through with the answers being thankfully also included. It, however, provides more than just brain teasers and would be suitable for someone who would like to be informed about the history of the GCHQ with some fascinating photos to illustrate this history. There has been a follow-up book to this one called The GCHQ: Puzzle Book 2 which again offers tough challenges from the GCHQ.




Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Astonquis Shop Space on

bottom of page