"Do you believe in Fate? I do, because I thought I'd never see you again--and then one day, there you were. It all came back: how you sound, how you move--most of all, how you think. If someone told you to think of a number, I know what number you'd think of. You don't believe me? I'll prove it to you. 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." - From Think of a Number by John Verdon
With a deviously dazzling premise, Think of a Number--an amazing new debut by suspense novelist John Verdon--teases the reader (and torments retired NYPD detective Dave Gurney) with a puzzling mystery: how can an anonymous person be able to guess the number someone is thinking (it's already written on paper!), not once...but twice?
And why does this individual demand an $289.87 "finders fee"--payable in cash or check? As if that's not bizarre enough, why do the checks end up returned to the person...uncashed?
Gurney and his wife, Madeline, move to upstate New York to create a new life that will mend their shattered hearts. However, when Gurney attends an art appreciation class at Madeline's invitation, the unexpected happens: he becomes enthralled with the instructor, and then begins a rather obsessive new hobby of re-touching photos of the serial killers he apprehended while on the NYPD.
With Madeline disappointed and disheartened at Gurney's plunge back into a world of sickos, his attention is further pulled away from her by an unexpected email from a former college classmate of Gurney's--a famous Self-Help author and guru named Mark Mellery who receives a puzzling letter from someone called X. Arybdis. Mark has no idea who this person is, but fears the threatening tone of the letter--especially since he was an alcoholic prone to blackouts before his spiritual awakening.
Mellery pleads with Gurney to help him, but since no crime has been committed--and Mellery doesn't want to involve the police for several reasons--Gurney's at a loss to what he can do. Yet, the letters and notes continue, and an increasingly alarmed Mellery (and intrigued Gurney) try to solve the puzzle on their own.
But when Mellery ends up dead at his retreat center--with boot prints leading away from the body and then disappearing in the middle of a clearing--Gurney becomes sucked into a vortex of deception and additional murders, and the clever killer's hatred of cops may find Gurney among the victims...
Let me just say I gobbled up Think of a Number. Not since Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter books have I been so entertained and freaked out. It's hard enough crafting compelling characters, believable twists and comprehensible mazes that engage readers, but newcomer John Verdon not only accomplishes all of this, but also writes with such fresh panache. In fact, I marveled at his crackling prose and ability to create well-drawn characters, not to mention an absolutely irresistible mystery!
If you enjoy well-written, suspenseful puzzle mysteries involving intelligent killers, a dose of psychological profiling, and a marriage worth rooting for--I believe you will love Think of A Number by John Verdon. (I can't wait for his next book!)
-- Janet Boyer