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Extended Audio Sample Think of a Number: A Novel, by John Verdon Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,891 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Verdon Narrator: George Newber Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The Dave Gurney Series Release Date:
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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, 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. 

A work that defies easy labels—at once a propulsive masterpiece of suspense and an absorbing immersion in the lives of characters so real we seem to hear their heartbeats—Think of a Number is a novel you’ll not soon forget.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Remarkable…Verdon’s hero Dave Gurney is one for the ages.”

    David Baldacci

  • “Addictive and thoroughly engrossing…In Think of a Number, Verdon plays deliciously on our deepest, most primal fears, portraying a killer who seems to see right into people’s minds.”

    Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Vanished

  • “Spectacular and mind-bending, Think of a Number is the best thriller I’ve read in a long, long time. John Verdon’s writing is so polished, so nuanced, it makes me envious that I didn’t write this terrific novel.”

    Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of Ice Cold

  • “With its edge-of-the-chair suspense, memorable characters that jump off the pages, and elegant and deft writing, John Verdon’s Think of a Number is a stunning debut.”

    Faye Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author of Stone Kiss

  • “This book doesn’t just entertain—it engages you and draws you immediately into the lives of the characters, who are as real as real can be.”

    Nelson DeMille, New York Times bestselling author of The Lion’s Game 

  • “Consistently intelligent, fast-paced, filled with clever twists and psychological insight, and characters that come alive on every page, it entertains from the opening set-piece, right through the tension-filled ending.”

    John Katzenbach, New York Times bestselling author of The Traveller

  • “The characters live and breathe, the plot is diabolically clever and airtight, and the prose is sublime. Absolutely not to be missed!”

    John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of  The Suspect

  • Think of a Number is a subtle and intelligent thriller of the first order.  With his gripping premise, well-drawn characters, and relentless escalation of suspense, John Verdon has penned an exciting debut.  Don’t miss it.”

    Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Die for You

  • “A dark, disturbing, and completely compelling debut.”

    Spencer Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of Dog on It!

  • “[Think of a Number] a puzzle mystery and a police procedural and a cautionary tale about loss and love—the book literally has something for everyone, with a conclusion so eerily perfect it could have been scripted by Hitchcock himself. This is a thriller that will rewrite the rules of the genre.”

    Will Lavender, New York Times bestselling author of Obedience

  • “Verdon’s premise is clever and his police work convincing, which right there might be enough; but the real joy of this book is its characters. Each one, no matter how minor, is unique and beautifully observed.”

    S. J. Rozan, Edgar Award–winning author of The Shanghai Moon

  • Think of a Number is written with pace, style and intelligence.”

    Reginald Hill, winner of the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger Award for Lifetime Achievement

  • “[An] inventive and entertaining first thriller.”

    Washington Post

  • “Mostly what makes this work is the intricate fabric that debut novelist Verdon weaves, as complications twist into what seems to be an impossible knot.”

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Verdon is a master at controlling pace, illustrating the story of a rich but complicated marriage, pondering what it means to be sucked back into your life’s work even if it might kill you, and demanding that the reader use his or her brain to figure out what comes next.”


  • “Verdon’s deftly written, erudite debut is an exquisitely plotted novel of suspense.”


  • “Savor the sense of loss that haunts this strong debut.”

    Houston Chronicle

  • “Good writing and good storytelling often aren’t the same thing. Verdon combines them masterfully…Here’s hoping Verdon has what it takes to churn out more books like this.”

    Newark Star Ledger

  • “An incredible crime novel.”

    Herald-Dispatch (West Virginia)

  • “Will hook just about any reader…An astoundingly addictive work filled with real life characters that jump off the page into a daring and skillful plot, this book will leave you stumped and hungry for more.”

    New York Journal of Books

  • “The numbers game gets a murderous spin in Verdon’s deft, literate debut.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “An outstanding debut.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A 2011 Nero Award Nominee
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Selena Lang | 2/19/2014

    " Good first novel. Suspenseful and tricky mystery. Not crazy about the personal stuff in the book, Get a bit tired of angsty personal crap...I wonder why a retired cop can't just have normal problems...but the story was great - mystery hard to figure out until the end. looking forward to reading the next. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Gatorman | 2/17/2014

    " I really liked this book. Even though the premise was a bit implausible, Verdon carried it off with great success. It was well-written and never went over the top for shocks or suspense. The main character was well-developed and the subplot with his marital issues and family tragedy gave the story some depth you don't always see in these stories, or seen handled as well. Can't give it 5 stars as the identity of the killer was no shock and could have been hidden better. However, it still was an excellent read and I will definitely catch the next one in the series. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Diane Schultz | 2/7/2014

    " The jury's still out. I've started his next book, but the relationship between Gurney and his wife, as they start their retirement years, is dark and depressing against a bucolic background. Now reading the next book, I'm struck of how this author's writing style is remind me of P.D. James, so this may be what the difference is from what I normally read. The mystery in Think of a Number is good, and I loved how it was resolved. Aces for that, and Dave Gurney (and his wife) are likeable characters. Well worth the read. Still, more of an English rather than American flavor to the novel, although it is written in the US (NY Catskills) and by an American I believe. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Darin | 1/27/2014

    " I thought this was good--had a good plot. It bogged down at times for me, with Gurney's reflection on his son that died, and on other thoughts that didn't seem to have much to do with the story. His writing was very descriptive, though, which I enjoyed. The descriptions of the scenery really helped put me there. "

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