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
"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)
A classic story of an old cop too good and too involved to retire, a serial killer with several trick in sleeves, and many likable character makes up for a bit too predictable storyline.
John verdon delivers a very entertaining book, properly narrated and voiced by George Newbern
One of the better audiobooks I've listened to. Kept me interested and looking for activities to continue listening
the plot was not completely predictable, had several theories throughout the story, all thankfully failed. I don't like to figure out the killer until the author intends. Good book
found myself nodding to several of the psychological revelations throughout the story
So unusual to find a mystery/thriller/police story written with such intelligence and subtlety. The characters are three dimensional - wonderful experience.
Somewhat predictable story but captivating nonetheless.... the hints dropped are a bit frustrating because they leave little to guess. Overall, it was still worth the read and an interesting thriller.
I purchased this based on the reviews and every single second of this was torture. The characters were ridiculously underdeveloped and I never connected with them and the storyline ... Laughable. There was not a moment I could concentrate completely on this book because it just never got off the ground. I still am not too sure what happened. There was never a build up to a climax for me at any point. The narrators flat voice is more suitable for reading of a menu or actually a Visine commercial. Horribly annoyed with this and I never finished it. It was just too much torture. The components of this book just did not work at all.
Sci-fi, detective, cozy. Only give 5s to those books I think stand above the rest. 4 is a good solid book. 3 is average, nothing special.
This was very interesting, I didn't figure out how the victims were picked until told. Very enjoyable.
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.
The narrator was performing this story and not telling a story; his voice always had this slightly hightened quality; all he needed to do was relax. His performace was remarkably uneasily dull. It didn't help that the writing was pretty amaturish -- the author was trying to create a rhythm in a by-the-numbers, I-learned-how-to-write-from-a-how-to-book way which was painfully obvious by the many torchured metaphors. The premise was not as interesting as other reviewers indicate; all you have to do is think about it and the explaination (which completely escapes this apparently smart retired detective) becomes clear. Solving the "mystery" early made the rest of it unbearable.
I really wanted to like this book. But there were way too many times when various characters would ask "What do you mean by that?" of "That can't possibly be" when presented with a perfectly valid explanation. Perhaps Verdon was trying to make sure the audience understood the story so far, but the characters seemed far too stupid to be believable.
And then there's the plot holes. When the bad guy is finally knocked unconscious the two protagonist start to argue about how they subdued the bad guy. But meanwhile, the bad guy is still laying there with a gun in his hand and a house about to explode. There's no sense of urgency to reduce the danger of the situation. "Oh, he's knocked out, we'll be fine." And when they start asking important questions like "why did he escalate so quickly" they just shrug it off with no real answer.
Let's add in the character stereotypes. The brash, foul mouthed detective; the angry lead Sargent who's so abusive that I can't believe he would ever be promoted to that position with that attitude; the gay bed and breakfast owner who has a Wizard of Oz fascination and is more angry about the robbery of his replica ruby slippers than the fact that a murderer may have stayed at his place.
I know this was Verdon's first book and I hope they get better. But there were far too many places where I found myself saying "Really!? That's how you're going to write this?"
When you find the answer to the first "I'm thinking of a number" puzzle you'll think "Really?" And that scam never got anyone's attention? Unbelievable.
It's a great idea and I really wanted it to work. But I don't think I'll spend another of my valuable credits on another Verdon book.
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