Crown Publishers, Random House, July 2010
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Dave Gurney is a retired NYPD homicide investigator credited with catching numerous serial killers during his illustrious career. But he’s been retired for the past two years and trying to live a quiet life with his wife Madeline in a little town in upstate New York. When an old college buddy, Mark Mellery, contacts Gurney about a disturbing letter he’s recently received, Gurney’s interest is piqued. The letter asked Mellery to: “Think of any number up to a thousand. The first number that comes to your mind. Picture it. Now see how well I know your secrets. Open the little envelope.” Mellery thought of the number 658 … and inside a little sealed envelope that accompanied the letter it says “Does it shock you that I knew you would pick 658?” The letter goes on to give instructions about where to mail an oddly specific amount of money in order to find out why the letter writer seemingly knows so much about Mellery.
Intrigued, Gurney questions Mellery in-depth about the letter, how it arrived, and how the writer could have known the number that Mellery would think of―a number that Mellery insists meant nothing to him. Reluctant to involve the police, Mellery asks Gurney for his help in figuring out what is going on. As additional letters arrive, Gurney gets more and more involved in solving the puzzle. As the author of the notes performs additional acts of seeming clairvoyance, the stakes escalate, and Gurney becomes increasingly concerned about Mellery’s welfare. When Mellery turns up dead―and the crime scene is filled with odd details and seemingly impossible and nonsensical evidence―Gurney gets involved with the investigation, which expands as related cases are uncovered.
As Gurney races to find a serial killer who seems to be infallible and predicting the police’s every move, he is also forced to confront his own troubled past and a marriage that is teetering on the brink of disaster.
To paraphrase the popular song from Porgy and Bess:
And my reading is thrillin’
Killers are killing
And the mysteries are good.
(OK … that was no parody worthy of Jill at Fizzy Thoughts but I tried.)
I love reading mystery thrillers during this time of year. Nothing like the sun baking your brain while tackling a mystery. I’m pleased to report that Think Of A Number is a fast-moving, intriguing mystery/thriller that will have you turning the pages so fast you’ll forget to reapply sunscreen and will end up reading on the beach until the tide comes in.
Now I have to confess that I’m not the brightest bulb when it comes to mysteries. I almost never figure out who done it. But in this book, that isn’t necessarily the issue. It is more like “How does who done it.” Just like Gurney, I got involved in figuring out how the killer was doing all these seemingly impossible things like predicting numbers and vanishing into thin air at a crime scene. And don’t worry … there is nothing supernatural going on here. Everything is explained and makes sense (at least to this dim bulb) … but darned if I knew how it was being done until Gurney unraveled the puzzle.
The other thing I liked about the book besides the intriguing mystery was how Verdon gave Gurney a compelling back story. Hopefully, this will not be the last Dave Gurney book; he seems like a character ripe with possibility. This is Verdon’s first novel, and I think he did a whiz bang job with it. Of course, I suspect he might have a hard time topping the premise of this book, but I wish him luck, and I hope to be reading another Dave Gurney book this time next year when my brain is, once again, ripe to be thrilled.
My Final Recommendation
As much a “how it was done” as well as a “who done it,” Think Of A Number is a fast-paced, exciting mystery/thriller that is a cut above average with an interesting hero and an intriguing puzzle of a mystery. Definitely recommended for summer beach reading!
The Whys and Wheres
I saw this book advertised on Shelf Awareness and on Net Galley and somehow managed to snare both an ARC and a PDF for my Kindle. Good news for you … it means it means the ARC will be in my August giveaway!
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