August 11, 2011
Think of a Number
Think of a Number by John Verdon
Series: Dave Gurney, No. 1
2010 Crown Publishers
Finished on 6/29/11
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Arriving in the mail one day is a taunting letter that ends with a simple declaration: “See how well I know your secrets—just think of a number.” Eerily, 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. Brought in as an investigative “consultant,” Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that have local police in awe. Yet, with each taunting move by his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney feels his tragedy-marred past rising up to haunt him, his marriage approaching a dangerous precipice, and, finally, a dark, cold fear building that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.
Summer is the best time for me to dive into a juicy thriller or mystery. I’ve always got so much going on between work, the yard, house guests, travel and entertaining, that I need something that pulls me in from the get-go, but is also something I can set down for several days and not feel like it’s lost its momentum. John Verdon’s debut novel is exactly that sort of book. I’ve had the ARC in my stacks for many months and had almost forgotten it was there until Joy mentioned the release of Verdon’s follow-up thriller, Shut Your Eyes Tight. Joy and I tend to like the same type of thrillers, so I trusted this would be a winner based on her glowing review. I wasn’t disappointed. The pacing is even and taut and I never did manage to figure out the identity of the villain until the closing chapters. I was actually so surprised with one turn of event that I gasped out loud in disbelief. In addition to creating an intensely suspenseful mystery, Verdon’s prose is at times lyrical and thoughtful, a bit reminiscent of that of Dennis Lehane:
They had moments like this from time to time, moments of easy affection and quiet closeness, that reminded him of the early years of their marriage, the years before the accident. “The Accident”—that dense, generic label with which he wrapped the event in his memory to keep its razor-wire details from slicing his heart. The accident—the death—that eclipsed the sun, turning their marriage into a shifting mixture of habit, duty, edgy companionship, and rare moments of hope—rare moments when something bright and clear as a diamond would shoot back and forth between them, reminding him of what once was and might again be possible.
It’s always nice to get in on a new series and this is definitely an author I’m anxious to read more of. I do hope the relationship between Dave and Madeleine is expanded a bit more in subsequent books, though. I felt there were a few loose ends pertaining to their marriage and would like to see how they resolve some of their issues. Nonetheless, this is definitely an author to follow.
Thanks for sending me your ARC, Joy!
Go here to read Joy's review. Think of a Number made her Best Reads of 2010 list!
My good friend Kay also enjoyed Verdon's book. You can read her wonderful review here.