Saturday, October 2, 2010

Think of a Numb3r by John Verdon

In Think of a Numb3r, Dave Gurney is pulled into an investigation after his recent retirement as NYPD's top homicide investigator. His old college classmate asks for help after he receives a series of odd, puzzling and could-be dangerous letters. Dave hasn't heard from his friend in years and immediately urges him to go to the police, but to no avail. When his friend is murdered, the police become involved and call Dave in as a consultant. When they discover that more deaths appear to be connected to this one, they launch an investigation into hunting down a bizarre serial killer. Gurney's experience might give him a leg up on the killer, but his dedication might jeopardize his marriage and his life.

I loved this book. Absolutely! From the first page, I was totally immersed in the book and breezed through it in no time. Ten pages in: I knew I was going to enjoy the book. Even the writing is suspenseful. Fifty pages in: I was sad because I knew at some point this book was going to end and I already didn't want to. By the end, I was totally satisfied and couldn't have asked for a better story.

There isn't a whole lot of action in this book. No car chases, gun battles or hand-to-hand combat. It's more of a thinking man's mystery; a psychological thriller. It does, however, offer an in-depth inside look at police work as discussions take place and theories are hammered out at the conference table despite the politics and egos that come with the territory. It really is sensational.

Despite his long and decorated career, Gurney remains a reluctant hero in this story. The insight into his mind and his personal life add to the suspense as the author reveals more and more as the story progresses. At times, I think Dave forgot that he was supposed to be retired. I love how he bounces ideas off his wife, who was perhaps more clear-headed about the investigation because she wasn't close to it. She seemed a bit standoffish to me; she and Dave didn't appear to do much together. Perhaps that comes from years of being married or perhaps that's because they refused to discuss the one subject they needed to talk about the most, their son.

The cover of the book is pretty cool. I didn't notice it right away, but when the light hits it a certain way, the number reflect the light.

When I was reading, I marked numerous passages that I loved and was going to quote here. However, when I went back to look at them. their meaning and relevance were lost out of context. Several of them were just too long to quote. Having said that, here's one that I liked and still makes sense in isolation:
It was a curious thing about the past--how it lay in wait for you, quietly, invisibly, almost as though it weren't there. You might be tempted to think it was gone, no longer existed. Then, like a pheasant flushed from cover, it would roar up in an explosion of sounds, color, motion--shockingly alive. (page 114)

New words:
vitiate (page 17): make something ineffective
vacuity (page 79): emptiness
picayune (page 90): small-minded
perfunctory (page 111): automatic, obligatory
sophistry (page 169): lack of imagination
patrician (page 200): noble
eponymous (page 193): having the name that is used as the title or name of something else.
pederast (page 309): a man who has sex with a adolescent
obsequious (page 383): flattering
unfilial (page 388): not befitting a son or daughter

Highly recommended. I look forward to reading more books by this author. I can't wait for Verdon's next book.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Random House website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Think of a Number by John Verdon, Crown Publishers (Random House), ©2010. ISBN 9780307588920(Hardcover), 418p.


  1. Oh, I'm glad you liked this! I have this coming up in my tbr and can't wait to read it!

    As to your vocab word pederast, "boy" should be adolescent. I'm in no way condoning anything but the word can be used to refer to 17-19 yos and men in their young 20s who still have youthful looks, haven't started shaving yet, etc. It is not always equivalent to the crime of pedophilia, though very often is.

  2. I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for the explanation of pederast. I've made the change to the review.


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