Think of a Number

Think of a Number

3.82 (16,574 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 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. "From the Hardcover edition."show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 511 pages
  • 106.68 x 175.26 x 25.4mm | 249.47g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0307588939
  • 9780307588937
  • 289,321

Review quote

"[An] inventive and entertaining first thriller. The hard-edged characters and gritty plot recall Chandler's "mean streets," but the ornate puzzles laid before Verdon's detective might have challenged the "little grey cells" of Hercule Poirot."--"Washington Post" "Mr. Verdon was an advertising executive who retired to upstate New York before deciding on a more artistic pursuit. And if THINK OF A NUMBER is any indication, he'll have no trouble forgetting about that day job. The transition couldn't be much smoother...Verdon is masterly at keeping Gurney [his protagonist] a step ahead of the reader [and] the murder itself is a pretty crafty piece of legerdemain....[The novel features] the kind of head-scratching setup that would get Sherlock Holmes off his cocaine [and] Gurney has the same precision, logic and thirst for clarity."--"New York Times " "Verdon's deftly written, erudite debut is an exquisitely plotted novel of suspense." --"Portland Oregonian " "Mostly what makes this work is the intricate fabric that debut novelist Verdon weaves, as complications twist into what seems to be an impossible knot."--"Chicago Sun-Times" "Good writing and good storytelling often aren't the same thing. Verdon combines them masterfully...Here's hoping Verdon has what it takes to churn out more books like this."--"Newark Star Ledger" "Verdon's brought back crimes of impossibility, starting with the titular parlor game trifle and escalating until we're deep into serial murder territory. Verdon is a master at controlling pace, illustrating the story of a rich but complicated marriage, pondering what it means to be sucked back into your life's work even if it might kill you, and demanding that the reader use his or her brain to figure out what comes next. When you're finished, you may not trust silly parlor games ever again."--"Salon" "Savor the sense of loss that haunts this strong debut."--"Houston Chronicle" "John Verdon more

About John Verdon

JOHN VERDON has held several executive positions with Manhattan advertising firms, but like his protagonist, he recently relocated with his wife to rural upstate New York.  Think of a Number is his first novel. From the Hardcover more

Rating details

16,574 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 26% (4,302)
4 40% (6,695)
3 26% (4,237)
2 6% (1,047)
1 2% (293)

Our customer reviews

Reason for Reading: I love thrillers and this new author's book sounded very interesting. However, I never managed to get around to it and now I have the second book in the series waiting here to be read so thought I ought to get caught up with this one first. A thoroughly splendid thriller of the serial killer type. Verdon doesn't just bring us your typical serial killer, though, he's got a special, intelligent one, who sets up elaborate crime scenes, leaves messages taunting the police and before killing his victims he scares them with a series of threatening poems. This is one guy who thinks he's too smart to be caught, and he almost is. I loved the murders! They were bloody but not exactly gruesome and the case was a cerebral one also that was fun to watch unfold. I found the book quick-paced and it was a page-turner for me. I really enjoyed the main character, a fairly down-to-earth guy but devoted, perhaps obsessed with the job. He has a dark moment in his past weighing him down and his marriage. I appreciate that he isn't one of the usual former alcoholics or divorced. The fact that he is already married also means there isn't the typical partner love affair to go with either. A really good book with an intriguing main character. I'm looking forward to the next book, the next case, and how Dave and his wife work on their more
by Nicola Mansfield
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