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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 (515 )
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3.8 (373 )
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Story
3.8 (373 )
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  •  
    General Zod Springfield, IL 03-29-14
    General Zod Springfield, IL 03-29-14 Member Since 2013

    Kneel Before Zod!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    91
    ratings
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    69
    36
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    6
    1
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    Story
    "Really Good"
    What made the experience of listening to Think of a Number the most enjoyable?

    The story and great narration.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Dave Gurney, he was very interesting.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    A more than one, hard to say without giving away points of the story.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    not really


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn Baxter, MN, United States 03-06-13
    Kathryn Baxter, MN, United States 03-06-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    50
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    Story
    "The narration ruins it"

    An audiobook can only be successful if the listener gets wrapped up in that narrators rendition. For me, this was not the case. Shut Your Eyes Tight was narrated by Scott Brick and I would say that book was better than this one for the sole purpose of the narration. It was hard to tell when one voice or conversation ended and another began so I did get thrown off at probably some key points. There are times where he tries to shake it up a little bit and add a different voice or tone here and there, but he doesn't keep it consistant so I found myself saying..Who is this now? I was getting aggitated by his voice and had to shut it off and take some deep breaths. It's bad when the review isnt about a book at all, but about narration. I don't need a Hollywood production, but I do have to find the reading pleasant and at least interesting. He is boring. Thru and thru. Be careful with this one. You might be better buying the paper novel and listen to the audio with the other 2 in this series.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 06-03-12
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 06-03-12 Member Since 2011

    I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    71
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    Story
    "Not as Clever as the Author Believes"

    I really, really wanted to like this book. I tried. I finished it despite know, halfway through, that it would not get better for me. That's unfortunate as it's not terrible, the narrator is passable, the characters aren't unlikable. But there is no spark to it. And if nothing else, a story about an inventive killer should be mystical, it should envelop the reader in a shroud of wonder and excitement. None of that is here. If any book I've ever read felt like it was written by a committee, this was it.

    To begin, the main character receives a call from an old college friend. This man has received a message that seems to have read his mind. Later (and I mean much later, the opening of this book dragged on forever) there is a brutal murder committed in a way that makes no sense (snowy footprints disappear in the middle of a field) and the killer seems to be playing a long game against the cops. It all sounds very clever. There are two issues.

    The first is that there is very little action. Most of the book is people sitting down and examining and discussing and discussing again. It takes hours for something new to happen. The main character doesn't even seem to be very engaged in the murders or the investigation. He has troubles at home and by the end of the book there hasn't even been any resolution to those troubles.

    Then there's the issue with the mystery. It's not very mysterious. I figured out how the killer did everything about hour six. The book is 13 and a half hours long. So that was over 7 hours of waiting for the characters to catch up to me. It was an aggravating way to read a book. Without action, this book of constant examination on matters I'd already deduced seemed just stupid.

    I wanted to like it, as I love detective stories. And I don't need a mystery to be unendingly clever. It can be very simple (like the wonderful Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo). But this book rests entirely on the brilliance of a killer who - actually - isn't that brilliant. It's not bad. But you can do better.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 11-24-11
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 11-24-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "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 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    62
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    8
    8
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    Story
    "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
  •  
    Melanie Los Lunas, NM, United States 08-19-10
    Melanie Los Lunas, NM, United States 08-19-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Intriguing story, overwritten and slow"

    Good original story, but the unabridged version has periods of slow pontification that just drag. Narration is more of a read than a performance. Still, the story makes it a worthwhile listen, but you might want the abridged version if available.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacqueline 12-30-14
    Jacqueline 12-30-14

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1121
    ratings
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    548
    134
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    194
    9
    Overall
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    Story
    "If you love puzzles--this one is a head scratcher"


    From almost the beginning, this book hooked me.

    When you need a book to keep you involved, like on a long car trip for instance, this could be it. I was not able to stop listening--had to know how the "tricks" were done. A recently retired detective is trying to help out a friend who has received threatening letters which contain poems for clues. The first "mind reading" clue is one I thought about for hours--never solving it, of course. I had to wait until it was revealed, and even then I wondered if it could be done--can't say more so as not to give any spoilers.

    Bottom line on this one is--not great literature--but fun for what it is supposed to be.

    Recommended for mystery fans, or anyone who likes a good puzzle.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie Oakland, CA, United States 12-18-12
    Carrie Oakland, CA, United States 12-18-12 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    8
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    0
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    Story
    "Bo-oring"
    Would you try another book from John Verdon and/or George Newbern?

    No


    Has Think of a Number turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, I love mysteries!


    What didn’t you like about George Newbern’s performance?

    I guess I don't know if the performance was the problem, I just got tired of it.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andre Ithaca, NY, United States 10-22-12
    Andre Ithaca, NY, United States 10-22-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    85
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    Story
    "Plot or Psychology"

    This novelists spends very much more time with murky, unbelievable "psychology" than with the plot as such. It is very hard to see where the story is going, while we are asked to agonize over the inner feelings and uncertainties of just about every character in the story. OK for compulsive worriers, but not much use for ordinary readers (listeners).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandy Coralville, IA, United States 01-25-11
    Sandy Coralville, IA, United States 01-25-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
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    7
    4
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    9
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    Overall
    "Needs a reader with more energy"

    I stopped after listening to a little more than 2 hours of this book. It did not hold my interest as the reader did not put inflection in his voice or feeling in his characters. I listen to the samples each time I buy a book but it seems that whoever selects the samples finds a good part and uses that. I would like a sample that starts with the first page of the book. If the reader and/or book does not grab me after a few pages I will continue to look. If you buy something at a store and it isn't what you think it is, you can return it. This book isn't what I thought it was. How do you get your credit back? And does anyone from customer service actually read the comments?

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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