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.
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David Baldacci Reviews Think of a Number
David Baldacci was born in Virginia, in 1960, where he currently resides. He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Mr. Baldacci practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C., as both a trial and corporate attorney. He has published seventeen novels. Read his review of Think of a Number below:
John Verdon has done something remarkable in his debut thriller, Think of a Number. He has successfully juggled every storytelling ball, character, atmosphere, prose, pace and plot, with the skill and assuredness of a veteran novelist at the top of his game. The writing is haunting and quotable, the twists expertly placed and infinitely plausible, the conjured locations vivid and memorable, the characters full of depth and promise. You can read the book as a game of cat and mouse, a ride of chilling suspense, or a literary repast, since it provides all in abundance. In the novel the set-up provides an intriguing dilemma. A man gets a letter that scares him to death by challenging him to think of a number. That catalyst soon speeds the reader and Verdon’s hero, Dave Gurney, a legendary and now retired NYPD detective, headlong into a mystery of the first order. I’m pretty adept at figuring out these types of stories and while I hit on a few twists before Verdon probably wanted me to, the major ones were stunning surprises. I read the last two-hundred pages in one sitting. I did this for two compelling reasons. First, to find out what the hell was going on. And second, just to enjoy the wonderful writing. Some novelists promise plot and pace and deliver it with lightweight characters and silly dialogue. Others get the characters spot-on but the story is mediocre and predictable. Verdon nails it all in his first novel. The villain is appealingly terrifying, smart and cunning while operating mostly in absentia, and that is incredibly difficult to accomplish. The answer behind the “think of a number” plot, most certainly a disaster in lesser hands, proves clever, winning and eminently believable. 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.
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.
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