Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Think of a Number

The numbers game gets a murderous spin in Verdon's deft, literate debut. Recently retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney is an old warhorse much too easily led to water, in the view of his increasingly disenchanted wife, who insists it's now me-time. But it surprises neither of them that Gurney snaps at the lure when a beleaguered friend sets before him a tasty, number-driven puzzle.

Mark Mellery has been receiving mysterious mailings that terrify him because he's convinced the author of them can somehow read his mind, and because the mailings threaten his death for crimes he can't recall having committed. Nor is Mellery the only one, it soon become evident, as a particularly malignant serial killer buckles down to business. Ever the puzzle master, Gurney tracks and unravels each clue until—in an attenuated denouement that constitutes one of this thriller's rare self-indulgences—he finally makes the numbers add up.

My take:  This is a murder/mystery that includes the usual blood and gore along with a much more subtle secondary story of being stuck in the past and neglecting current relationships.  The author adeptly uses imagery to paint the cold landscape, the characters that make up the story, and intriguing dialogue.

This is John Verdon's first novel and I enjoyed the book.  He's an author to watch.  I have no doubt he will crank out some enjoyable and good mysteries.

4 stars

Rated R for gore and language.  "F" bomb dropped frequently by police.  If you skip the language, it's still a strong PG-13 for gore.  Very well written despite the warning above.

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