My favourite type of puzzle is the Puzzle Box, or trick opening box, and being a member of the Karakuri group certainly helps me get my fix of puzzle boxes. Bits & Pieces however have been known to reproduce some of the Karakuri boxes at very reasonable prices. I've mentioned some of the problems I've had with their work in previous reviews, but I had heard that their puzzle boxes were pretty well done, so when I got the chance to add a copy of the Kamei Book Box to my collection I decided to take the chance. Puzzle Master carries this puzzle if you'd like to pick one up for yourself, although they seem to be out of stock at the time of writing this review.
As you can see, this is a nice looking box. The fit and finish is very good, and there's no obvious sign of the mechanism. The puzzle measures 4.5" x 7" x 1.5", so would easily pass for a hard backed book sitting on a shelf. The Walnut cover and spine, with maple pages looks like a book and the contrasting colour of the woods used could easily fool a casual passer by that this was a real book. The finish has a nice sheen to it, and while I'd not say it was Karakuri level of craftsmanship, it is well made. The hidden drawer does slide out nearly 1/4" while the puzzle is 'locked' so you know how it will open when you find the mechanism.
The puzzle itself is not difficult, with only one move required to unlock the drawer, however it is well hidden, and the mechanism is tight so it gives nothing away as you investigate each side to try to find the hidden movement. The panels are all solid, and give little away about how the drawer will open, however that is also a clue as to hoe it will open as there are only a few panels on the box.
Looking at the pages of the book, the wood used really gives a great impression that there are individual pages in there, and that you could open the book and read it. I have to applaud Bits and Pieces for taking the time here and making full use of the grain in the wood to make a great looking puzzle.
Despite previous reservations, I have to admit that I am fairly happy with this puzzle and wouldn't have a problem recommending that someone pick up a copy of it for themselves. It is a simple box, so don't expect to be puzzling over it for hours, however it's an elegant Kamei design which is made very affordable, and keeps an aesthetic level that you would expect from a Karakuri box.
Note: After posting the initial review one of my puzzle friends got in touch to say that I may have missed something about this box, and in fact there was an extra secret hidden in there. This box works as a sort of magic trick where you can place something into the drawer, and make it disappear. Initially I thought that there was just a little extra play in the B&P version but it turns out I was entirely wrong.
In my mind that makes this an even better version of the box as it fully retains all the original characteristics of Kamei's design, at a great price and I'm not ashamed to say I totally missed it! I don't like to look at puzzle solutions, preferring to enjoy solving the puzzle for myself, but having gone back to look at the solution card which came with the puzzle it does not even mention this little secret, so if you have this puzzle, go give it a second look, you may just be surprised!