Usborne Puzzle Adventures
25 Books

Various

1985-1997

A series of very popular British Puzzle Books published by Usborne in the 80s and 90s, also spawning several spin-offs for different audiences.

Usborne Puzzle Adventures

If you were a kid in the 80s or 90s, you’ll remember the 'Usborne Puzzle Adventures' series, which spanned across multiple authors and illustrators for over a decade.

25 official titles were made, some of which reprinted in ‘Omnibus’ editions, before entirely new reprints appeared in the 2000s, giving fans another chance to collect these nostalgic icons (even if the original covers are far superior).

There's many reasons these books were popular - they had the makings of classic adventure book plots, built on a variety of classic puzzle formats, but included vibrant illustrations, with diverse characters and environments.

Books with Character

With locations ranging from sunken cities, to ancient pyramids, to a schoolbus in outer space, a good variety of plots/characters were built, even in the confines of the short books (all 48 pages). Nearly all were set in the present, and most avoided supernatural elements, or kept them to more of a 'scooby doo'-esque passing nod ("it was the janitor all along!").

(Interestingly, Usborne would reportedly build new books by taking the title and cover art to conventions to build interest, and commissioning the ones that proved popular).

Some of the puzzles in this series seems surprisingly (and commendably) difficult. Even simpler puzzles such as mazes often had extra dimensions, such as needing to follow instructions to navigate a maze as normal, but also have to deduce where your starting point was. Some puzzles, in addition the hints page, required readers to read back through earlier pages for clues, and coupled with intricately explorable illustrations, this gave books a longer life.

Series End

Though the series ran 25 book, several more were planned before ending -all sought after and documented in the Agent Arthurs Mountain Mission website, including some interesting emails with fans and even the authors/illustrators themselves. Further Books were reported to include:

  • Agent Arthurs Mountain Mission
  • Agent Arthur to the Rescue/on the run
  • Escape from Eagle Mountain
  • Silent Snow
  • Prisoners on Skull Island

The latter two were eventually published but in a different format, sadly without puzzles (so not considered part of the same series). With book number 25, 'The Crimebusters Investigate', published in 1997, the series drew to a close, with a few further 'Puzzle' book series, aimed at slightly different readers, continuing on after.

Books in this series
1
Escape from Blood Castle
Jenny Tyler
Graham Round (Illustrator)
1985

Join Intrepid Ivor as he pursues his quest for the all-important Papers and tries to escape from Blood Castle.

Goodreads
4.17
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780860209508
2
The Curse of the Lost Idol
Gaby Waters
Graham Round (Illustrator)
1985

Join Annie in her quest to solve the strange mystery of the lost idol and to prevent the threat of its ancient curse.

Goodreads
4.15
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746000120
3
Murder on the Midnight Plane
Gaby Waters
Graham Round (Illustrator)
1985

The reader must solve a series of visual puzzles in order to help the Sprockett twins discover who killed a mysterious passenger on their midnight plane ride to Tsetse Island.

Goodreads
4
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780860209522
4
The Incredible Dinosaur Expedition
Karen Dolby
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1987

Freddie, Zack and Jo unwittingly walk into the past and find themselves in the eerie, unknown world of the dinosaurs. Here they discover a prehistoric plot and their desperate search for the disappearing time door begins.

Goodreads
3.8
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746001493
5
The Intergalactic Bus Trip
Martin Oliver
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1988

A mysterious game starts Tom and Izzy on a bus trip across the galaxy. Can Izzy save Tom from the kidnapping space bandits?

Goodreads
3.76
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746001516
6
Time Train to Ancient Rome
Gaby Waters
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1988

The Time Train seems to be an ordinary train until Bill and Lucy climb aboard and are whisked away to Ancient Rome. Here they stumble on a poisonous plot and find themselves caught up in a risky Roman adventure.

Goodreads
4.08
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746045633
7
Danger at Demon's Cove
Karen Dolby
Graham Round (Illustrator)
1988

Danger at Demon's Cove is a thrilling story of lost treasure, ruthless crooks and sinister strangers. What is the secret of the flashing lights? Where does the maze of smuggling tunnels lead? and where did the greedy Grabbitts hide their loot? Join Max and Sally as they piece together the ancient chart and follow the trail to the buried treasure

Goodreads
4.1
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746001790
8
Agent Arthur's Jungle Journey
Martin Oliver
Paddy Mounter (Illustrator)
1989

Agent Arthur's first mission for the Action Agency takes him deep into the tropical jungle. Here he is forced to pit his wits against his enemies and the elements in a desperate bid to succeed and survive.

Goodreads
4.11
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746043165
9
Agent Arthur on the Stormy Seas
Martin Oliver
Paddy Mounter (Illustrator)
1989

Agent Arthur investigates a series of disappearing ships in the tropics, rumoured to be the work of a notorious pirate.

Goodreads
4.17
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746001431
10
The Ghost in the Mirror
Karen Dolby
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1989

When Polly, Joe and Sam set off on a ghost hunt in creepy Grimstone Manor, doors slam, secret passages spring open and a strange apparition appears in a mirror. But in a spooky game of hide and seek, they stumble upon more than they bargained for and discover the truth about the ghost in the mirror.

Goodreads
4.05
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746003343
11
The Haunted Tower
Susannah Leigh
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1989

Nic, Ali and Charlie visit a mysterious Island and it's tower which is rumored to be haunted. Here they must escape the islands inhabitants and foil a kidnapping plot.

Goodreads
4.16
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746003329
12
Agent Arthurs Arctic Adventure
Martin Oliver
Paddy Mounter (Illustrator)
1989

Agent Arthur's third mission for the Action agency takes him to the rough, tough frontier town of Hudlum Bay. Here he discovers an evil plan to take over the world and is forced to head into the freezing arctic wastes to defeat a ruthless enemy.

Goodreads
3.98
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746001455
13
The Vanishing Village
Sarah Dixon
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1989

One misty night, Jay and Ben stumble upon a ghostly village that vanishes without a trace by dawn. A mysterious message leads them into a series of spooky adventures as they attempt to lift an ancient curse from The Vanishing Village.

Goodreads
3.72
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746003305
14
Search for the Sunken City
Martin Oliver
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1989

The discovery of a wrecked galleon and the contents of an old sea chest plunge Flic, Toby and Uncle Ollie into a perilous adventure above and below the waves.

Goodreads
3.94
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746003046
15
Journey to the Lost Temple
Susannah Leigh
Brenda Haw (Illustrator)
1989

Three teens journey their way through the jungle (and it's inhabitants) to find a mysterious temple.

Goodreads
3.79
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746052525
16
The Pyramid Plot
Justin Somper
Peter Wingham (Illustrator)
1993

Jaz and Gusto's trip to Egypt takes an unexpected turn when they stumble upon a bunch of crooks and an ancient treasure trail. Their search leads them on a perilous adventure of mystery and sabotage as Gusto and Jaz struggle to outwit the suspicious Iona fortune, unravel the riddle of the strange symbols and finally discover the secret of the pyramid plot itself.

Goodreads
3.98
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780613742580
17
The Invisible Spy
Mark Fowler
1994

The invisible spy plunges you into the world of secret formulas, kidnap, spies and counter-spies. Throughout the book there are lots of tricky puzzles which you must solve in order to understand the next part of the story

Goodreads
3.65
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746005101
18
The Emerald Conspiracy
Mark Fowler
1994

The reader must solve an assortment of puzzles to unravel the mystery that confronts Annie and Joe when they arrive on the tropical island of Exotika.

Goodreads
4.04
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746005088
19
Agent Arthur's Desert Challenge
Martin Oliver
Paddy Mounter (Illustrator)
1994

Combining stories of mystery and adventure with puzzles to solve, this Puzzle Adventure is intended for eight to 13-year-olds. Extra clues, as well as complete answers, are given at the back of the book.

Goodreads
3.79
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746014066
20
Voyage to the Edge of the World
Lesley Sims
1995

Charlie and Wills day begins with a note found in a bottle, before having their boat destroyed and being rescued by a passing ship... in 1491.

Goodreads
3.86
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746016909
21
Mutiny at Crossbones Bay
Mark Burgess
1994

Tom and Mandy plan to spend a day at the beach, but they soon end up in stormy waters. Thrown back in time, they are forced to work aboard a ship called the Squiffy Sheep, and they find themselves at the mercy of a rebellious crew about to mutiny.

Goodreads
3.82
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746074985
22
Castle of Intrigue
Paul Stewart
1995

All is not well at Craggie Castle, where the vile Sir Vile rules its downtrodden occupants with a rod of iron. Following instructions left by an unseen hand, Paul the Pageboy must set off a chain of events that will overthrow the evil tyrant once and for all.

Goodreads
3.81
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746017050
23
The Dark Dark Knight
Lesley Sims
Lesley Simms (Illustrator)
1996

It's an ordinary day for Haley and Martha - until they accidentally wake two knights from a thousand-year sleep. Suddenly they find themselves on a daring and dangerous quest, journeying through the ancient kingdom of Hamalot, in search of Good King Stan.

Goodreads
3.56
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746020913
24
Agent Arthur's Island Adventures
Martin Oliver
Lesley Sims (Illustrator)
1997

Agent Arthur is in action once again, hot on the trail of the devious Squid Squad. Captured, imprisoned, blown up and stranded, the odds are stacked against him as Arthur struggles to survive. But will he escape in time to sabotage the Squid Squad's scheme?

Goodreads
3.91
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780794500917
25
The Crimebuster's Investigate
Mark Fowler
Ann Johns (Illustrator)
1997

Five sinister suspects, baffling evidence, and a criminal mastermind whose activities threaten to tear apart the old city of Allegro. All this awaits Kaz Smiley and her friend, Mat, when they set out to investigate the theft of a mysterious jewel known as the Traitor's Knot.

Goodreads
3.76
☆☆☆☆☆
★★★★★
48 pages
ISBN 9780746020951