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Think of a Number: A Novel | [John Verdon]

Think of a Number: A Novel

Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration: “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly. For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.
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Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary fiction debut, Think of a Number is an exquisitely plotted novel of suspense that grows relentlessly darker and more frightening as its pace accelerates, forcing its deeply troubled characters to moments of startling self-revelation.

Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration: “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly.

For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.

What police are confronted with is a completely baffling killer, one who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. Even more disturbing, the scale of his ambition seems to widen as events unfold.

Brought in as an investigative consultant, Dave Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that leave local police in awe. Yet, even as he matches wits with his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney’s tragedy-marred past rises up to haunt him, his marriage approaches a dangerous precipice, and finally, a dark, cold fear builds that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.

In the end, fighting to keep his bearings amid a whirlwind of menace and destruction, Gurney sees the truth of what he’s become – what we all become when guilty memories fester – and how his wife Madeleine’s clear-eyed advice may be the only answer that makes sense.

©2005 John Verdon (P)2010 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Think of a Number is truly unputdownable. Rarely have I read a debut novel that has gripped me as this one has from the first page to the last. This book doesn’t just entertain – it engages you and draws you immediately into the lives of the characters, who are as real as real can be. John Verdon has written a flawless novel about flawed people and he’s written it beautifully. I hope we see a lot more of John Verdon and his smart protagonist, Dave Gurney, in years to come.” (Nelson DeMille)

“John Verdon’s Think of a Number is simply one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a lifetime of thriller reading -- eloquent, heart-rending, deeply suspenseful on many levels, and relentlessly intelligent. The characters live and breathe, the plot is diabolically clever and airtight, and the prose is sublime. Absolutely not to be missed! At one stroke, Verdon establishes himself as a bright star in the thriller firmament.” (John Lescroart)

"Verdon’s protagonist Dave Gurney is one for the ages, and readers everywhere will surely clamor to see this man again. Think of a Number gets full marks from me. And I think it will from you, too. Enjoy." (David Baldacci)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (383 )
5 star
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3.8 (255 )
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Story
3.8 (255 )
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3 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Kelley Wilmington, NC, United States 08-22-10
    Kelley Wilmington, NC, United States 08-22-10 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fresh and Frightening!"

    If you like Connelly and Coben, you'll love John Verdon. This book is intelligently written, and excitement builds and builds to a very frightening ending! The main character and his relationships develop beautifully over the course of the book. I have been looking for a new author in this genre since my old favorite authors just can't keep up with my audio book habit! It is also my understanding that Mr. Verdon is planning more books with retired NYPD detective David Gurney as the main character. I do not recommend the abridged version... unless you regularly prefer abridged novels.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John tallevast, FL, United States 08-01-12
    John tallevast, FL, United States 08-01-12 Member Since 2011

    To get a better idea of my background. I am a working class white male in my forties. I love good fiction, and I love smart books. I have drifted towards a lot of European writers like Reginald Hill, Val McDermid.,Etc....

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Was on it's way to a Five - But it's a good Four!"

    I like the smart way it was written. I also love the way it was read. I read a bunch of reviews and there are two I don't understand. One is the person claiming it was too much of psychology and not enough thriller. Maybe there is a good horror book out there for them with people running around stabbing people. I like books that make me think, and this one did. The other one was about the narrator. I was really worried until I started listening. I loved him. A lot more then I like Scott Brick. Scott is probably the only reason I hesitate to get the second book on Audio and not read it. George Newbern had a great voice. Maybe his charachters didn't have too much of a different pitch or accent - But I can work that out in my head. It's better then an over dramatic reading any day. His reading was easy to listen to. John Verdon is either super smart or has great researchers. The only complaint I have is about the 658 number. I'm not giving anything away. The explanation was plausible - But I think the average reader woud find it easier to believe if the number was one to a hundred. This is my first Verdon book, and It is the first book in awhile I am glad I got. Hope that's helpful.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Sarasota, FL, United States 10-15-10
    Stephen Sarasota, FL, United States 10-15-10 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Whose smarter - cop or killer?"

    This one of those books that will make you get out of your car...it's hard to write a mystery novel that stands out in terms of clever combinations of the criminal and the detective mind. I found the development of the story very entertaining and captivating.

    it starts with a letter that Mark Mellery to think of a number between 1 and 1000...then when he opens the second envelope in the letter, the number he thought of is written on it. From there the killer seemingly leaves a mountain of clues but the police can't seem to make any headway on what all the clues mean. On receipt of the letter and additional poems, Mellery contacts his acquaintance from school, the recently retired detective Dave Gurney. Mellery eventually is murdered and Gurney can't help but take up the challenge of a killer who is clearly taunting the police. The killer continues to use the mail, number tricks and poems to strike fear in the victims before they are murdered...Gurney and the police are always several steps behind until Gurney's deductive skills and plain perserverance provide him the break he needs.

    The killer is very clever and is well matched with Gurney...it is life and death when they finally meet.

    I read a fair amount of these murder mysteries and found this to be one of the most entertaining I've ever read.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Loyola CAMDENTON, MO, United States 10-08-10
    Loyola CAMDENTON, MO, United States 10-08-10 Member Since 2008

    A former accountant and staff trainer. Now retired, I enjoy knitting and weaving. I enjoy intelligent, insightful books with lead characters I respect. I deplore novels fille with gratuitous violence and depraved sexual behavior written to shock the reader.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "spellbinding"

    This was the most compelling "thriller" type of audiobook that I've enjoyed in a long while. I couldn't wait to listen further to find out what happens in the story. The narrator was excellent.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Marlborough, NH, United States 12-29-10
    Matt Marlborough, NH, United States 12-29-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Where would mysteries be without retired cops?"

    I downloaded this book after I'd already read it, so I can't comment on the narration.

    This is an excellent mystery/police procedural/thriller/whodunit. A little of each, in just the right proportions. Clever plot twists, revolving selection of whodunit options - I was way off base pretty much along the way. Worth the time.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SUZANNE United States 08-22-10
    SUZANNE United States 08-22-10 Member Since 2010

    zbarr

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    34
    18
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    "Kept my interest"

    This book had some interesting twists and turns and I looked forward to getting back to it. What more can you ask for?

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BillyBee 63 08-14-10
    BillyBee 63 08-14-10 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    "Interesting story"

    I also have the hardcover version of this book. Sometimes I'd read. Sometimes I'd listen. Sometimes I'd do both. It was a good book to relax with on the deck. Truthfully, I found it the climax a little predictable, however the ride there was anything but. A good story and a terrific debut novel for John. I've suggested the book to others.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 03-02-14
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 03-02-14 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Terrific: Mystery, Characters, Plot!"

    I don't need 15 words to say, "Yikes!", "Wow!" or "Wheeee!" Here's the deal. This is the first Dave Guerney novel from John Verdon. It is so gooood I'm afraid to buy the next. Did Verdon save up a lifetime of deviously complex ideas and empty his tank into "Think Of A Number"? Should I even get "Shut Your Eyes Tight"? AAARGH! This is what puzzle psychological murder mysteries should be. "Think Of A Number" ought'a be Webster's definition for the genre.

    If you and I share any taste in thriller detective mysteries (see my reviews - I'm tough!) then this… THIS IS A MUST READ, or um… HEAR!

    Quibbles… George Newbern's not up to the complexity of these characters and has some trouble differentiating their voices. He's good enough. Oh… and it seems to start slowly… Careful, clues… clues… clues.. here to the process. Enjoy the depth…

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 11-24-11
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 11-24-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Quite good"

    I liked the character, the story and the reader. Thoroughly enjoyed the book. So much so that I already downloaded John Verdon's second novel. Yes, some of the clues come together in rather unbelievable ways -- but most actually seem feasible. What's best is that you are given the puzzle pieces at the same time as the detectives, so you can figure out the puzzle right along with them. The reader is not a character himself (like, for example, I am guessing Scott Brick will be in the second novel) -- he never detracts or distracts. Good job.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eck Lansdale, PA, United States 09-14-11
    Eck Lansdale, PA, United States 09-14-11 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    54
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    8
    8
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    "Superb"

    This book deserves all the praise it's been getting. The story grabbed me right from the beginning. It is intelligent, very well written, strong character development, and a plot that is entirely unpredictable (at least so far: I haven't finished yet). The narration is terrific. I have already recommended this book to about ten people. Verdon is a master.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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