Author: John Verdon
Narrator: George Newbern
Series: Dave Gurney, #1
Published: July 6th 2010
Publisher: Random House Audio
Lenght: 13 hrs and 30 mins
An extraordinary fiction debut, Think of a Number is an exquisitely plotted novel of suspense that grows relentlessly darker and more frightening as its pace accelerates, forcing its deeply troubled characters to moments of startling self-revelation.Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration: “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly.For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.What police are confronted with is a completely baffling killer, one who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. Even more disturbing, the scale of his ambition seems to widen as events unfold.Brought in as an investigative consultant, Dave Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that leave local police in awe. Yet, even as he matches wits with his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney’s tragedy-marred past rises up to haunt him, his marriage approaches a dangerous precipice, and finally, a dark, cold fear builds that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.In the end, fighting to keep his bearings amid a whirlwind of menace and destruction, Gurney sees the truth of what he’s become – what we all become when guilty memories fester – and how his wife Madeleine’s clear-eyed advice may be the only answer that makes sense.
I’ve been successfully cured of my addiction to mysteries and thrillers year ago, but when Audible dangled this lovely carrot right in front of my nose in the form of their Audible daily deal, I simply couldn’t resist. John Verdon has been receiving a lot of praise from those far more familiar with the genre so of course I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Think of a Number starts off very strongly, with a seemingly unsolvable puzzle in front of our retired detective. Dave Gurney has been retired not too long ago, but he’s having a hard time adjusting to his new country life, feeling disconnected from his day to day obligations and his lovely, brilliant wife.
Dave and Madeleine don’t have an easy marriage and we can’t help feeling that it’s entirely his fault. He is a puzzle solver, a famous detective whose job defines him, but in his personal life he is prone to hiding from his problems and not facing things that are painful for him to deal with. Dave feels responsible for the loss of their 4-year-old son 15 years ago, and as hard as Madeleine tries, she can’t force him to deal with his pain and say goodbye.
The mystery is very well thought through, especially in the first half. The tiny inexplicable details make us doubt even the possibility of solving it. But as the story progresses and things start coming to light, Gurney is sometimes painfully slow on the uptake, which is a big source of frustration for the reader.
George Newbern is a fantastic narrator, his voice well suited for the calm and collected detective. His voice characterization is excellent and his sense of pacing practically flawless. I’m sorry to say that he doesn’t narrate other books in this series, which stopped me from buying Shut Your Eyes Tight in audio format.
Overall, though, this is a series worth continuing, despite the risk of falling back into my mystery addiction. The quiet emotionality of it, the complex and flawed characters and very impressive murder cases are all too alluring to pass up.