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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 (428 )
5 star
 (103)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.8 (292 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
3.8 (292 )
5 star
 (84)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 11-24-11
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 11-24-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    994
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    184
    163
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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 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    57
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    8
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    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
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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
  •  
    Beverly Hermosa Beach, CA, United States 01-09-11
    Beverly Hermosa Beach, CA, United States 01-09-11

    bella jackson

    HELPFUL VOTES
    320
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1525
    47
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    6
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "PLEASE!"

    I have listened to 3 hours and 29 minutes of this book and if i wanted to read a psychology book I know many others that would hold my interest more than this- It was touted as a psychological thriller but if it takes mores than 3 hours to get to the "thriller" part- I give up. I want my credit back.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melanie Los Lunas, NM, United States 08-19-10
    Melanie Los Lunas, NM, United States 08-19-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
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    0
    0
    Overall
    "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
  •  
    Amazon Customer East Hartford, CT, United States 03-01-14
    Amazon Customer East Hartford, CT, United States 03-01-14 Member Since 2010

    Not a writer, a writer wannabe, editor, lit maj, or pretend literary critic. Just an avid reader/listener. My ratings are opinion only.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    224
    ratings
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    275
    129
    FOLLOWERS
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    18
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "So overdone"

    The protagonist was actually well written and I did enjoy some aspects of the writing. However, the ludicrous story line required suspension of all reality and common sense.

    These things don't necessarily preclude me from enjoying a well written story, but this went too far. I could not get involved in the story and had to keep rewinding just to find my place.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn Baxter, MN, United States 03-06-13
    Kathryn Baxter, MN, United States 03-06-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    73
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    50
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    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.

    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
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    2
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    0
    0
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    Performance
    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
  •  
    Sandy Coralville, IA, United States 01-25-11
    Sandy Coralville, IA, United States 01-25-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    REVIEWS
    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
  •  
    William New Port Richey, FL, United States 09-23-10
    William New Port Richey, FL, United States 09-23-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    77
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    106
    36
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
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    Overall
    "OK Story, but Terrible Reading"

    I enjoyed the story and the written book actually deserves more than the 2 stars I gave the Audible book. The story was a little slow in places, but kept my interest. I kept trying to figure out the puzzle all the way to the end. I really enjoyed the main character's attempt to figure out his life and relationship after retirement. I can see other novels in this series, since the renowned detective can't let go of what he enjoys and does best; so many killers, so few experts. The one plot element I didn't like was the death of a loved one as the reason for all the angst. This theme is really overworked (think of how many main characters are tormented by his loss of a loved one) and not needed to develop the character or his relationship with his wife. Ok, enough about the story. What I didn't like was the reader, George Newbern. Why he was picked as the reader, I'll never know. His voice and inflections are monochromatic and dull. The pitch of his voice is a little too mid-range which adds to the dullness of his reading; however, it would work if he read with a little more excitement, like he really wanted to do this. The first part of the reading is clipped and spoken like he's reading a dull textbook instead of a thrilling novel. He does get better about a third of the way into the book, like he's getting used to reading, but it's not enough to save the performance. He ruined the book for me. My wife, listened to part of the book with me on a road trip and said the same thing about the reader. I would buy the next story in the series, if the author wrote it, but not if George Newbern was the reader! This is one of my pet peeves with Audible books. Who makes the decision on readers? Do people compete for the opportunity to read an Audible book? Why not use a panel of listeners to decide the reader? Oh well, I'll start listening to the sample audio before I spend my credit.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John NJ, United States 09-25-14
    John NJ, United States 09-25-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    112
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    118
    87
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good story, probably So-So, worth a listen"

    I enjoyed this book, but it didn't make me seek out more by the author either. It was a little stilted in places: a bit stereo-typical with too many characters, a couple plot points i felt were weak, but i'm overall, not bad. It did have some good mystery too it, so i'm glad i got it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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