*Verdon, John. Think of a Number. Crown. July 2010. c436p. ISBN 978-0-307-58892-0. $22.00. Fiction.
Dave Gurney, a recently retired NYPD homicide detective, finds himself drawn into a weird case involving a college classmate he barely remembers. Mark Mellery, now a New Age guru, has received threatening poems apparently sent by a clairvoyant psycho bent on revenge for an unknown crime. As Gurney works to decipher the poems’ clues, the killer strikes. Well known in his time for having tracked down other serial killers, Gurney becomes a consultant to the New York State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. How could the psycho know ahead of time what number between one and 1000 Mellery and subsequent victims would pick? And why does the killer’s hate extend to Gurney and the police? Complicating matters is the strained relationship between Gurney and his wife, who clearly expected more of the husband and less of the detective when the couple retired to rural upstate New York. VERDICT A former Manhattan ad executive, Verdon spins an engrossing web of baffling puzzles. Add these enigmas to the novel’s other features–a compellingly introspective protagonist, minutely observed subtleties of character, a strong narrative pull–and you have an outstanding debut, sure to enchant a wide range of readers. [150,000-copy first printing.]