Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Think of A Number

Since The Replacement didn't do it for me in terms of scariness, I decided to give an adult thriller a try.  Think Of A Number by John Verdon is a mystery/suspense/thriller featuring a retired detective who is unwillingly pulled into the investigation of a serial killer.  The killer sends taunting letters to his victims asking them to think of a number and threatening to reveal their secrets.  Those who comply find out that author of the letters did, in fact, know the random number they chose.  Our main character, Dave Gurney, becomes involved when a friend receives the mysterious message and is subsequently murdered.

From that point on, it's pretty much a straightforward thriller - trying to catch the murderer.  I was hoping for intensity in this one.  I was expecting to be thrilled.  Sadly, I was in fact put to sleep.  The premise sounds amazing and I think the book could have been equally amazing, but we barely see any action.  Because the main character is retired, he is never present for any of the actual events.  He gets called when bodies are found, but by the time he gets there the police have gathered the evidence and done all the "action" parts.  Instead of getting to experience the action parts of the book, we hear a second hand account of what happened from various other police personnel.  The book finally picks up some speed in the last 50 pages, but by then you've waded through 350 pages of hearing what happened from a secondary character.

My other big pet peeve is when writers don't listen to Stephen King's excellent advice in On Writing and use Tom Swifties.  You can just say "said" when using dialogue.  I promise.  The biggest one in this book that jumped out at me was "he said as if appending an asterix".  That sounds very smart, but how exactly does that sound?  I've never heard someone say something and though "the tone in her voice is as if she's appending an asterix".  I did read an ARC, so some of those type of things may not be present in the final version.

I loved the idea, and I didn't mind most of the writing.  I think the book would have been a lot more exciting had we been present for at least some of the action.  For me, hearing a secondary character describe something that another secondary character witnessed just can't be as exciting as experiencing the action with the main character. 

So far, I'm really striking out with my RIP books.  I want scary, but not supernatural.  But I want to be scared.  Just not supernaturally scared.  Any suggestions?  I've got at least two more RIP books and I'm hoping to find something good!



  1. Have you ever read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield? I just started it so I can't exactly recommend it, but someone told me that they're reading it for the RIP challenge. Just a thought!

  2. That's too bad that you didn't really get what you wanted out of this book, either. I hope something changes about that soon!

  3. I've had this one on my TBR pile for a while now, and everytime I go to start it, I put it down again...
    I don't usually read scary, but many years ago I read Stephen King's Misery, and Anne Rice's Lasher...Lasher was so scary, I couldn't bring myself to read the last 50 pages!