Synopses & Reviews
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.
"The numbers game gets a murderous spin in Verdon's deft, literate debut. Recently retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney is an old warhorse much too easily led to water, in the view of his increasingly disenchanted wife, who insists it's now me-time. But it surprises neither of them that Gurney snaps at the lure when a beleaguered friend sets before him a tasty, number-driven puzzle. Mark Mellery has been receiving mysterious mailings that terrify him because he's convinced the author of them can somehow read his mind, and because the mailings threaten his death for crimes he can't recall having committed. Nor is Mellery the only one, it soon become evident, as a particularly malignant serial killer buckles down to business. Ever the puzzle master, Gurney tracks and unravels each clue until in an attenuated denouement that constitutes one of this thriller's rare self-indulgences he finally makes the numbers add up. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Verdon's superb debut novel is a riveting thriller with a wonderfully baffling crime....Think of a Number is a 10, and crime fans of almost every persuasion will love it." Booklist (starred review)
"Addictive and thoroughly engrossing....In Think of a Number, Verdon plays deliciously on our deepest, most primal fears, portraying a killer who seems to see right into people's minds. Few readers will be able to resist the lure of watching an unstoppable detective track an uncatchable killer. This tale will grab hold of you like a steel jaw trap." Joseph Finder, New York Times-bestselling author of Vanished
"Spectacular and mind-bending, Think of a Number is the best thriller I've read in a long, long time. John Verdon's writing is so polished, so nuanced, it makes me envious that I didn't write this terrific novel." Tess Gerritsen, New York Times-bestselling author of Ice Cold
"Think of a Number is truly unputdownable. Rarely have I read a debut novel that has gripped me as this one has from the first page to the last. This book doesn't just entertain — it engages you and draws you immediately into the lives of the characters, who are as real as real can be. John Verdon has written a flawless novel about flawed people and he's written it beautifully. I hope we see a lot more of John Verdon and his smart protagonist, Dave Gurney, in years to come." Nelson DeMille, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lion's Game, The General's Daughter, and Gold Coast
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.
One of the Boston Globe's Best Crime Novels of the Year!
One of Suspense Magazine's Best Books of 2013!
Hailed as a suspense master” by Stephen King, Linwood Barclay now reveals the dark side of a small townand the even darker secrets that hide there...
Its been two months since private investigator Cal Weavers teenage son Scott died in a tragic accident. Ever since, he and his wife have drifted apart, fracturing a once normal life. Cal is mired in grief, a grief he cant move past. And maybe his grief has clouded his judgment. Because driving home one night, he makes his first big mistake.
A girl drenched in rain taps on his car window and asks for a ride as he sits at a stoplight. Even though he knows a fortysomething man picking up a teenage hitchhiker is a fool, he lets her in. Shes the same age as Scott, and maybe she can help Cal find the dealer who sold his son the drugs that killed him. After a brief stop at a roadside diner, Cal senses that somethings not right with the girl or the situation. But its too late. Hes already involved.
Now Cal is drawn into a nightmare of pain and suspicion. Something is horribly wrong in the small town of Griffon in upstate New York. There are too many secrets there, too many lies and cover-ups. And Cal has decided to expose those secrets one by one.
Thats his second big mistake.
About the Author
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.