Think Of A Number by John Verdon

This may very well be the first book identified as a “must-read” here on The Hurley Edition. Think Of A Number is a fast-paced, read-through-the-night, unputdownable book. It had me reading until well past my bedtime and all through the day. If I could have, I would have read it all in one sitting.
John Verdon has hit it out of the park with his début novel, featuring a new kind of frightening serial killer. Dave Gurney, a newly retired NYPD homicide detective, has been the most successful and decorated officer in the department’s history. He has finally decided to embark on his retirement to get away from the criminals and the big city to spend it with his wife in rural upstate New York, a dream they have been planning for some time.
The retirement dream is cut short when Dave is contacted by a classmate from his college days. Mark Mellery, who seems to remember the two of them being far closer than Dave does, asks repeatedly to get together to discuss something of importance. Puzzled, Dave wants to find out what this thing of importance might be. When he and Mark finally meet, he shows Dave a mysterious letter that he has received from an anonymous person. It is a poem that hints at something dark and bad from Mark’s past, but more disturbing is the fact that this mysterious person asked Mark to think of a number, any number between 1 and 1000. In another envelope is the exact number that he thought of – 658. Visibly upset, Mark is desperate for help, but unwilling to go to the local police.
Mark fills him in about his exploits after college. He continued his college partying and drinking into the rest of his whole life. He very quickly became a full-blown alcoholic. From there his life went into a downward spiral. After a few years, he decided to dry himself out. He started to tell people about his experiences and he was told that he was a very good speaker and he captivated people. A friend hired him to give a speech to an AA group, and that led to another. Before long, he wrote a couple of self-help books and on the back of those, he eventually founded an institute of self discovery which he now runs in the country for high-profile and rich people, who have a great desire for the utmost privacy. Just by coincidence, it is only a couple of away from Dave’s country house. He is worried that his public profile had led to this “wacko” trying to get to him. This is why he is resistant to go to the local police. He doesn’t think they have the ability to deal with something like this, and he also doesn’t want the media to get hold of this information, for fear that it would be bad for his Institute.
As Dave becomes involved in trying to help his old friend, he finds himself trying to solve the puzzle, something he can’t help himself from doing. Such is the life of a detective, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife, Madeleine. Then, a phone call telling him that Mellery was found dead at his institute. This is the beginning of a string of murders, all from the same serial killer who contacted Mark to begin with. Before he knows it, his reputation as the most successful detective of the NYPD of all time, there is an offer from the local DA to hire him as a special investigator to capture this new serial killer. As you can imagine, this doesn’t bode well for his relationship with his wife.
From there, the story is a thrill ride of a police-like procedural like you have never read before. The pace is fast, the characters so well-developed that you feel like you might be sometimes reading a newspaper article or a first hand account of the events. The intelligence of the serial killer in this story is both amazing and frightening. He continually sends notes in the mail that seemingly make impossible guesses about what the victim is thinking, or what numbers they will choose when asked to think of a number. (See? that’s the clever way they figured out the title!)
This amazing invention of a killer will leave you afraid to look in your mailbox for a while. This is a new style of crime thriller that the genre has needed for some time. I can only say, get out there and buy this book when it comes out. This will be one of the best reads of the summer if you are a mystery-crime fan.
Mr. Verdon has presented an amazing début with Think Of A Number and it has been reported that his advance for this first book is into seven figures, and that he has signed a deal with Random House for a three book deal to feature protagonist Dave Gurney from this first installment. Wow, what a way to enter the world of writing. Perhaps this is the reason Mr. Verdon has the confidence that even some seasoned writers lack at times. I look forward to reading more from this author and in my humble opinion, so should you.
Think Of A Number went on sale yesterday July 6, 2010 and is published by Crown publishers, an imprint of Random House.
The advanced readers copy was kindly provided to me for review by Crown publishers via NetGalleys.
~ todd hurley
The Hurley Edition

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