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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 (484 )
5 star
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3.8 (344 )
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Story
3.8 (344 )
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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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  •  
    P Carnell 03-06-14
    P Carnell 03-06-14

    holiday

    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
    ratings
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    135
    16
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    Story
    "Satisfying"
    Any additional comments?

    The premise is fascinating, the characters are fairly well drawn, the plot moves along quickly. Best of all, the story has an ending. The puzzle has a reasonable solution and the emotional conflict is somewhat resolved. It's all good. If only the editors would remove the umpteenth recap, the book could be a third shorter and nearly perfect.

    0 of 0 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 2012

    I don't know about you, but why are there so so so many 5 star reviews. I LOVE books, but so few are 5 star.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    254
    ratings
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    299
    140
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    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 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia 02-24-14
    Patricia 02-24-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    53
    4
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    "Terrible writing and narration"

    The story was okay, but the boring narration, stilted dialogue, and sophomoric descriptions ruined it for me. I would like my money and four hours of my life back.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darcy Arvada, CO, United States 05-24-13
    Darcy Arvada, CO, United States 05-24-13 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    51
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    Story
    "Surprising"

    I am usually very good at guessing "whodunit" but this one threw me for a loop. Awesome book, amazing writer, good performance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Greg 04-22-13
    Greg 04-22-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    202
    ratings
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    1883
    81
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    9
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    Story
    "Real Potential"

    Although the second book (Shut Your Eyes Tight) is better than this, the first, the series has real potential. I'd like to see better characterization of the wife and I don't want to hear another dead end foot trail. You'll see what I mean if you read these two books. I think the major difference in ratings between the two books rests in the narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice 11-05-12
    Janice 11-05-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "FASCINATING"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, It kept me up all night once I reached Chapter 12.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Think of a Number?

    When the security officer appeared to be in distress.


    Have you listened to any of George Newbern’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, But I really enjoyed his narration.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    I'm not big on turning books into movies. If I truly enjoyed the book; I'm often disappointed with the movie.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn Bakken 04-28-12 Member Since 2007

    Audiobook addict.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    68
    22
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    3
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    Story
    "Great Mystery. Weak Private Life."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    A unique mystery is set up that really confounded me. I really couldn't predict where it would lead and that's a big thing with detective mysteries. But the relationship between the main character and his wife was annoying and distracted from the business at hand. This is one of those instances where a divorced profiler/agent living alone in his crappy apartment cliche might have helped. I got the feeling the author was working something out there and I just wasn't interested.


    Would you recommend Think of a Number to your friends? Why or why not?

    The second book in the series is a vast improvement mostly due to Scoot Brick's narration which magically turned some irritating character quirks and situations (i.e. annoying wife) into something more real and grounded. So I'd probably tell friends to try the second book first. You can't' beat Scott Brick for these kinds of books. They should re-record this one with him.


    Would you be willing to try another one of George Newbern’s performances?

    No I think he dragged the narrative down with a bland performance and didn't love his female voices.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yes as long as the agent gets that divorce.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Rogers-Tomer 02-17-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    5
    3
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    0
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    "Sad Sad Sad excuse for a thriller"
    Would you try another book from John Verdon and/or George Newbern?

    I don't think so. The story was so contrived, with the teasers throughout about the protagonist's marriage and deceased child, and the stereotypically creepy and/or egotistical characters.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    In the Name of Honor, by Richard North Patterson


    Would you be willing to try another one of George Newbern???s performances?

    Yes. Not sure if my view of his performance was performance-based or material-based.


    What character would you cut from Think of a Number?

    Rodriguez and Klein (?Cline)


    Any additional comments?

    One of the few times I've regretted spending a credit, over many years of listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janels 01-25-12
    Janels 01-25-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great psychological thriller"

    I read Verdon's second book, liked it so much that I read his first. They both had a depth that other authors only touch on, that of the psyche of the protagonist and the perpetrator. So much is made of clues, but only Verdon uses all his senses, and then some, to reason out the meaning behind the crime. More than who did it; but why it was done. I really think he has created a unique genre in crime novels. The macho aspect is minimalized, and the cerebral is maximized. My only minor problem is that, in both novels, I easily guessed the identity of the criminal before the detective. I think the only fair type of cerebral mystery is one that gives all clues and allows the reader to try to solve it on his or her own. However; Verdon seems to go a bit above and beyond the required disclosure of all clues, and occasionally is a bit heavy handed with those revelations, so the reader may get it before the protagonist. Nevertheless, it is a great read, and I'm looking forward to more of his books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry Krypton 01-09-12
    Jerry Krypton 01-09-12 Member Since 2011

    Avid reader, love philosophy, fiction, everything!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book!"

    This book truly kept me on the edge of my seat! The story is fascinating and original! I highly suggest this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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