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Think of a Number (Dave Gurney, No.1): A Novel (A Dave Gurney Novel) Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2011
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
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)
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Top customer reviews
The writing is excellent, and the ending very satisfactory.
Great twist, and a very clever clue that I just didn't see! I'm excited to read the next Gurney book, not only to spend more time with this awesome character, but also to see if I can spot the clue or clues in the next book!
Also, the personal problems of the hero add another layer to the story that isn't included in a mystery novel. Verdon does a fantastic job of gradually revealing the complex dynamic between this married couple, and I found myself rooting for that relationship. I loved watching the hero, Dave Gurney, slowly come to realize some things about himself. Great character development. And the fact that he admits, at least to himself, that his wife is smarter than he is doesn't hurt!
He is not perfect with a number of issues that are relatable. He possesses self scrutiny, doubt, and insecurity. His correct decisions aren't automatic. They require preemptive thought and active action. His relationship with his wife is typical and not perfect. But reasonably realistic.
As far as the plot there is one major flaw. 'My dear Watson' it is elementary to any detective work that any person without a credible alibi is automatically a suspect. Dermot is the prime suspect. The mail came to his PO box. Therefore, it reasonable to assume that he is the one who initiated communication with the victims. How could Gurney ignore that possibility just because the villain claimed that he had no idea where the mail came from? And from the reader's point of view Dermot was for sure the murderer because there were no other suspects that the author bothered to develop in the story.
Lastly, there were some suspenseful moments. But, the author didn't develop them. Such as the vulnerability of the Gurney's wife. The author could've created a race between the killer and Gurney to get to her. Instead, this is more of a mystery. How was the murder committed? What were the hints and the murderer's motivations?
The advertisements that this book is hard to put down weren't true for me. However, it was Interesting enough to continue. So much so that I plan to read the next installment in the series.