Simon's Bookcase

Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe

Think of a Number

Think of a Number: John Verdon, 12—29 September, 2011
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊

Verdon’s Think of a Number is a murder mystery with layers of interesting concepts. The killer apparently knows which random number the victim will think of. He leaves footprints in the snow that just stop without a trace. A myriad of seemingly impossible things that baffle your average plod.

For me, when a writer sets up such intriguing mysteries, it’s crucial that they’re properly explained, and Verdon provides really clever, logical explanations for his puzzles, which in turn gives the killer real credibility.

The first third of book is a build up to the inevitable murder. Although it’s relatively fast paced with new developments every chapter, you do find yourself just waiting for Mellory, the victim, to hurry up and die. After he does pop his formerly alcoholic clogs, the ball starts not so much rolling as zipping about like the literary equivalent of a pinball machine.

Gurney is a likeable detective but his wife is perhaps the most annoying woman since records began. Never satisfied, almost whinging, long-suffering Gurney can’t do right for doing wrong. OK, it’s good that we’ve avoided the clichéd divorcee/widower set-up, but far too much time is spent at home enduring the most dysfunctional marriage since the Websters hit Corrie. The primary cause of the strain came as no great shock and was completely unresolved by the end of the book. Worse, his erstwhile son is brought up, referred to a couple of times, ignored and forgotten. A tangent we could have avoided. It also has to be said that a publishing house like Penguin should have better editors – Madeleine had to cancel her party’s. Her party’s what?

In his other life, down the station, retired Gurney is something of a celebrity and the fun Verdon has with the various characters is brilliant. Clichéd to the point of satire, the supporting cast of detectives make compelling reading and provide some (unintentional?) light relief. Everyone will recognise the one-upmanship and sycophancy so colourfully brought to life.

All in, it’s a very readable, fast-moving novel but the overemphasis on Gurney’s drab and dreary home life rips away the heart of urgency that is so crucial and makes what could have been a cutting thriller about as sharp as a butter knife. For a début novel, though, Verdon has put real effort in and it’s a pleasure to become engrossed in a book that is not only entertaining, but cleverly plotted that makes you work for your money. Remember, you’re not a spectator – you’re a reader!

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2011 by in 4 star and tagged .

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@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare