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VINE VOICEon 27 October 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Crime thrillers are my favourite read, however I do read a lot of them and so these days, it takes something special to get me excited about a book and to have me hooked, and I'm pleased to say this one had me hooked.

Right from the offset I knew this wasn't going to be a boring, run of mill crime fiction read. The book is told through the eyes of retired homicide detective Dave Gurney. He was a famous detective back in the day, and caught a few serial killers. It's no surprise then that an old college acquaintance contacts him with a problem. Despite assuring him he's not a Private Investigator by any means, Mark Mellery is desparate to talk to Gurney, but won't reveal what until he meets him in person. Mark Mellery shows up with a disturbing note from a strangerm which asks Mark to think of a number between 1 and 1000, before opening the envelope. When he did, the number in the envelope was the number he was thinking of...

This bizarre note is the first in a series of spiralling events ending in Mellery's death, and Guerney realises this is a lot more sinister than originally thought. Through out the book we follow Guerney and the NYPD as they try to solve the bizarre mysteries behind this killer, such as weird clues left behind at a crime scene, and they quickly try to solve it before the killer strikes again.

I loved every minute of this book and it's one of the best serial killer crime books I've read in a while. I loved how bizarre the clues are, and I simply couldn't figure it out myself and it was genuinely exciting reading how the detectives were trying to fathom it all out. Guerney is quite a likeable character, thought sometimes the storylines showing the relationship with this wife were a bit frustrating, as they have a strange kind of relationship.

Overall I highly recommend giving this one a read, you will not regret it.
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I ordered this book on the basis of the largely positive reviews and I'm very glad I did. Although, as others have mentioned, it gets off to rather a slow start it quickly accelerates once the hero, retired NYPD detective, Dave Gurney, takes the `bait' in the form of a phone call from an old college friend.

Gurney and his wife Madeleine have moved into the country following his retirement, into what many would regard as a rural idyll. However, to his wife's obvious chagrin, in his mind, Gurney, hasn't retired: he is an inveterate problem solver; a quality, no doubt, that led to him being something of a superstar homicide detective with a host of high profile arrests of notorious serial killers on his CV. This, of course, is the reason his one-time 'buddy' contacts him out of the blue to ask for his help in solving his problem, the form of which arrived through his letter box in the form of a vaguely threatening poem. After receiving a couple more, each of which represent a subtle increase on the `threatening' scale the friend, a kind of spiritual guru, quite understandably, is becoming increasingly distressed.

On the whole, this is an excellent `police' procedural but there are a few slight irritations. For example, we have the stock characters of `intransigent, dogmatic, by-the-book, control freak police chief' and `high-flying, whiz-kid district attorney' looking to boost his career with a high profile arrest and conviction to name but two and we are constantly made aware of almost all of the attractive women with whom our hero comes into contact and why they are so! Nevertheless, the puzzles set by the villain together with the confidently crafted narrative make for a very entertaining novel: may it be the first of many!
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on 10 October 2010
I picked up this book for a holiday as the blurb on the jacket sounded intriguing and for a holiday read formula detective fiction is the biz.

A letter is received that asks the recipient to think of a random number and then open a second envelope where said number is printed. Psychic? Deep-rooted code?

John Verdon's debut novel is a pretty easy read but he doesn't seem to like any of his characters with the exception of the protaganist, Dave Gurney, your common or garden retired cop with emotional baggage who can't quite let go of his job. Alex Cross must've been busy elsewhere. But after a few characters who are described as fake, officious, shallow, transparent et cetera, it becomes annoying that Verdon seemingly just dislikes people except for the good-and-true Gurney and maybe one or two others.

Additionally, the mystery resolve is a major letdown and annoyingly simplistic. However, Verdon keeps things going with crisp dialogue, albeit a bit too close to the cliches of this genre, it's just a shame that chapters are pumped with filler and a sort of literary beaurocracy that goes deep into the processes of things we don't really care about or need to know.

Verdon shows promise but Gurney isn't a very interesting fellow and if the creator can't paint characters we care about then why should we care when they're in danger?
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on 17 May 2015
I have enormous admiration for this author. I have enjoyed this book immensely - and read it far too quickly, but it was compelling. I heeded the warning of those who disliked the prologue, and found that it was short and although slightly repelling it is SO relevant! Carry on into the book and the prose is excellent, at times poetic but never verbose. The plot is refreshingly different from what appears to have become a rather formulaic genre, and keeps the reader guessing right to the end. I can't wait to read this author's other books, and would thoroughly recommend this one.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this story had the right level of pace from beginning to end, with snappy dialogue and just enough narrative to hold it all together. Handsome ex-Detective Dave Gurney's personal emotional trauma (I assume every lead character has to have some) is woven neatly throughout and never gets in the way of the plot.

I'm a fan of good crime fiction and it's been a while since I felt I heard an original voice emerge from the dross. Verdon is faithful to the standard elements and devices required of the genre, and yet his characterisation still feels fresh and engaging. The writing is good and holds one's attention well. Some might not like his style, and there might be a few too many red herrings scattered in front of us, and it could be easy to dismiss the book after just a hurried scan. I was put off by the cover and prologue, but once started on the story I found myself rushing through it to find out how the various well-crafted characters fare, and I was liking Gurney more and more.

The 'reveal' at the end may not come as much as a surprise, I had strong suspicions quite early on, but it didn't detract from the enjoyment of a good read. I look forward to seeing more from this new author.
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"'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." -- Hebrews 10:30 (NKJV)

Think of a Numb3r combines the best of Golden Age puzzles with the visceral rawness of a fifties story about a deranged killer. If you are a fan of those types of mysteries, this is a great book to read.

Today's mysteries tend to add to the mix a fascinating detective, whose life we come to inhabit rather closely. Here's where some readers will have a valid complaint: While retired homicide detective Dave Gurney is a great puzzle solver, he's far from the most engaging detective to read about. He's filled with anxieties and regrets that you may not share. If you don't, you'll feel a little too much psychological distance from the book that will affect your ability to enjoy the story, independent of the puzzle.

I found the ending to be a bit of a disappointment in that this piece of the puzzle should have been obvious to Gurney et al much sooner. That's the only reason I graded the book down at all. If this part doesn't bother you when you get to it, you'll probably think this is a little better book than I did.

For a first mystery novel, I thought that Mr. Verdon did a very creditable job. For much of the book, especially in the beginning, I felt was if I were in the hands of a master. I intend to stick with this series after so much of a promising beginning, even though I didn't like the second book, Shut Your Eyes Tight, as much as this one.

I was particularly pleased to see that the puzzle's solution is based on two tried-and-true cons of the sort that the police run into from time to time. To me, that made the story seem much more authentic, something I like in puzzle-oriented mysteries.
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on 20 July 2011
I enjoyed this book, it's an easy read and captures the attention.
But I stumble over the fact that such a brilliant detective didn't carry out a basic procedural check on one of the central figures - you can guess who as I don't want to spoil it. I was asking myself why this hadn't happened halfway through. If it had been done lives would have been saved!
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VINE VOICEon 20 July 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Just sometimes I can tell I'm going to enjoy a book from reading the first page of Chapter One. This is just such a book.

This excellent thriller has, for a change, a police detective (retired) who has never fired his gun, who has solved more murders than anyone else and done so by using his brain. Only Poirot could do better!

In fact, the hunt for a very clever serial killer starts out as a means to help a friend who has received mysterious anonymous letters followed by similar but frightening phone calls. When said friend is murdered, the killer leaving numerous clues, Detective Dave Gurney sets out to solve the puzzles. Little by little, the clues turn out to be false but the body count begins to rise.

The author conveys brilliantly the police hunt, the varied characters involved in the chase with their personal animosities creating both tension and amusement as the search widens further afield.

Dave Gurney does have one similarity to other current popular detectives; his home life is not of the best. This book not only gives the reader a really taut thriller but a reason to be sympathetic towards Gurney as he struggles with his marriage whilst locked into his dedication to catching the killer.

There are no spoilers in this review. This is just too good a story to give anyone a clue as to how it ends. I really look forward to John Verdon's second novel in the hope that it's equally as good as this one.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoyed this book. It is a well-written and engrossing thriller and even though the idea of Cerebral Cop Pursuing Game-Playing Serial Killer is anything but new, it still kept me involved and gripped and it is an impressive debut novel.

There is a slow but very involving beginning including some intriguing puzzles. I thought the gently quickening pace was very well controlled, the plot largely plausible and the writing literate and enjoyable. Even the mandatory difficulties in the detective's personal life were sensibly and sensitively handled, and I found the analysis of his work-obsession (usually just a given in such novels) penetrating and convincing.

The book does have its faults. For example, Gurney's art work and the relationship complications it threatens to create are carefully and lengthily built up, and then just peter out unnoticed. Later in the book he does something uncharacteristically and frankly implausibly stupid in order to set up a Tense Climax, and I found the climax itself rather contrived and over-the-top. None of this is a real problem, though, and with a bit of goodwill and suspension of disbelief this is a very enjoyable, readable book with more depth than many. Recommended.
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I enjoyed this book. It is a well-written and engrossing thriller and even though the idea of Cerebral Cop Pursuing Game-Playing Serial Killer is anything but new, it still kept me involved and gripped and it is an impressive debut novel.

There is a slow but very involving beginning including some intriguing puzzles. I thought the gently quickening pace was very well controlled, the plot largely plausible and the writing literate and enjoyable. Even the mandatory difficulties in the detective's personal life were sensibly and sensitively handled, and I found the analysis of his work-obsession (usually just a given in such novels) penetrating and convincing.

The book does have its faults. For example, Gurney's art work and the relationship complications it threatens to create are carefully and lengthily built up, and then just peter out unnoticed. Later in the book he does something uncharacteristically and frankly implausibly stupid in order to set up a Tense Climax, and I found the climax itself rather contrived and over-the-top. None of this is a real problem, though, and with a bit of goodwill and suspension of disbelief this is a very enjoyable, readable book with more depth than many. Recommended.
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