Think of A Number
A NovelBook - 2010
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.
From the critics
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Think of Think of Number as a thinker's thinking mystery about thinking about a deadly puzzle, and you will revel in its serpentine plot. Much like a "closed-room" mystery, wherein the deadly deed is done with impossible circumstances, you will easily latch on to Verdon's first ever book.
The mind-boggling mystery is investigated by retired famed NYPD detective Gurney, who truly relishes a first-class puzzle, at the behest of a long-lost friend, only to get caught up in its investigation and its riveting conclusion. Verdon is clever enough to make you feel like you, the reader, know what has happened, a couple of times, only to pull the rug from under you and throw you into a tail-spin.
My experience with first-timer authors is to sustain that excellent first book, where the author worked at length to craft a superb mystery, into another follow-up book, and then only to falter (witness Level 26 and its sequel). But, I digress, enjoy this most excellent tale of a tale of numbers that baffles all except the sharp mind of a retired detective.
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It’s inexplicable how someone sending anonymous, threatening letters seems able to read the minds of the recipients. Ex-NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney is concerned—and intrigued. And solving the puzzle becomes more urgent when the writer escalates to murder, in this “riveting thriller with a wonderfully baffling crime” (Booklist, starred review).
“I read the last two hundred pages in one sitting.” —David Baldacci
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