Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review - Think of a Number: A Novel by John Verdon

Title: Think of a Number: A Novel
Author: John Verdon
Year: 2010
Page: 432
Genre: Fiction - Murder / Mystery / Suspense

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Yes
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
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.

A work that defies easy labels -- at once a propulsive masterpiece of suspense and an absorbing immersion in the lives of characters so real we seem to hear their heartbeats – Think of a Number is a novel you’ll not soon forget. 

First Sentence:
"Where were you?" said the old woman in the bed.
Why did I pick this book?
I was browsing on TLC website to see what books were upcoming, and this book was listed. The premise sounded very promising so I wanted to read it - now I'm not part of the book tour, and I don't know when the tour is (quite likely that it's started? I am afraid I hadn't read any blogs for a while...). So I don't know what the reviews are like apart from what's on amazon and goodreads. 

My thoughts:
  • This is the author's first book and I thought it was a good effort!
  • Now, the protagonist wasn't very likable, and the voice of the book was a little flat - in some way the voice reminded me a bit of Shutter Island. That the protagonist seemed a bit distant (I read Shutter Island a while back, before I blog, so I don't know exactly why I thought the voice made me think of Shutter Island, just that if I had to pick a similar book in terms of character, that'd be it.)
  • The twists and such definitely added to the suspense, though I have to say, I guessed the puzzle and the murderer. But it was still fun to work out the puzzles and see the truth unfolded, and read the explanations in a logical, analytical way
  • Some characters were a bit too stereotype e.g. District Attorney Kline and Captain R. 
  • I don't know if the prologue was really necessary? It definitely made me guess the killers sooner...

    That boulder is your image of yourself, who you think you are. The person you think you are is keeping the person you really are locked up without light or food or friends. The person you think you are has been trying to murder the person you really are for as long as you both have lived." (p97)

    "The purpose of life is to get as close as we can to other people... An isolated life is a wasted life." (p302)

    Rating: 4 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading

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