Saturday, March 17, 2012

Think of a Number by John Verdon

Think of a Number by John Verdon

Dave Gurney is a retired cop, famous for solving a few serial murder cases. After moving out of the city with his second wife, he expects to have left that life behind when he receives an email from an old college buddy Mark Mellery asking to meet. Gurney agrees to meet with him and is shown a series of letters, one where the person that writes the letter tells Mellery to guess a number between one and one thousand. Mellery guesses 658, which matches the number guessed by the letter writer and sets Mellery in to a panic. What follows is a threatening letter about non-specific items that Mellery has done in his past. Mellery wants to know who could know him so well that he could guess what number he was thinking and wants to know what this person is going to do to him. Gurney sets to find out.

Gurney looking in to this matter upsets his wife, who wants him to leave his old life behind. Gurney doesn't find out much until the investigation takes a sharp turn and suddenly the police are involved.

This is a debut novel for Verdon and while there are sections that were great, the story overall felt a bit muted. I think the main problem with this story is that it started in the wrong area. Gurney's investigation of the letters himself felt very slow and like he wasn't getting anywhere. The book didn't start moving until the police got involved, which is when things got interesting. Unfortunately for the book, that was about a third the way through the book and it was too late to save the entire story.

In terms of characters, I liked Gurney, though I think he would have been better written as a current detective rather than a retired one. What annoyed me was his wife's reaction to everything he did, which to me felt like it was always met with hostility, annoyance, and anger. I can understand that she was upset about him getting back to his old life, but it felt like she never let that go the entire book.

Overall not a bad debut novel, but I don't think I'd seek out another of Verdon's novels voluntarily.

First Line: "'Where were you?' said the old woman in the bed. 'I had to pee, and no one came.'"


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