Sam Quixote's Reviews > Think of a Number

Think of a Number by John Verdon
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Jul 15, 2011

did not like it

I made it to page 20 of this mediocre "thriller" before throwing in the towel. I realise that it's not giving it much of a chance, how could any writer bring energy or develop a plot in that time? Well some writers have, notably Michael Connelly and Stephen King, which is probably why they're as famous as they are.

John Verdon isn't much of a writer though. Here are some examples of his awful writing that made me put the book down:

"He realised that planting tulip bulbs on a glorious Indian-summer day in a hilltop garden overlooking a rolling panorama of crimson autumn woods and emerald pastures under a cobalt sky was not a particularly onerous assignment." p.9.

Could he cram in any more cliched modifiers into that overlong and breathless sentence? But it was the exposition that did it for me. After 10 pages of the main character feuding with his wife over nothing, he meets an old friend he hasn't seen in a while:

"Davey Gurney! Back at Fordham they used to say you looked like Robert Redford in All the President's Men. Still do - haven't changed a bit! If I didn't know you were forty-seven like me, I'd say you were thirty!". p.20.

Ouch! Anyone else stung by the information dump made by this character? So now we know the main character's age and physical description, all clumsily spilled out by a character in dialogue that doesn't even sound vaguely real.

Factor in the cheesy chapter headings "Trouble in Paradise" and "I know you so well I know what you're thinking" and I was finished with this tripe.

Try something else, the writing in this book is barely above high school standard and about as sophisticated as a happy meal.
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Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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Christine I also almost gave up but I stuck it out and was pleased at how it ended. Glad I read the whole book. Looking forward to reading the 2nd book in the series. Try it again.


message 2: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote "Try it again"? No thanks. If I object to the author's writing style then it'll constantly niggle me so I'll never enjoy it at any point. Plus you shouldn't have to keep reading a book if you're not enjoying it, I put "Think of a Number" down and picked up "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury and I'm the better for it.


message 3: by C. (new)

C. McGannon I can see your issues with the book and grimace myself, but you don't have to be so scathing about it. Just remember that a) not everyone thinks that Stephen King can pick up a story that quickly (I know several people who are bored by him), b) this is Verdon's debut novel, while King and Connelly have been at the writing game for quite some time, and c) beginning the book with the right momentum and emotional connection is (arguably) the hardest part of writing.


Stephanie I too was not engaged in the first few chapters, found his writing too floral and can see your points, however, the story unfolded into an excellent psycho thriller and the writing was better and better. I look forward to watching this new author develop!


message 5: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote Fair enough about the Stephen King/Michael Connelly comments, but I have read a great many books that haven't been by either author and have finished them and enjoyed them. I'm not asking any writer to be of the same standard as a bestselling author but there has to be something in the first 20-30 pages of a book to make it seem that I don't know what's going to happen later on. If I have to read more cliches amid cliches, I will resent the author for not putting in any effort in the writing and will not enjoy the book. Any author not resorting to cliches or describing the weather using Dulux style marketing lingo is an author I have time for. I've read enough books by now to spot a weak writer and Verdon hit all the warning signs for me.


Lillie Sam, I'm with you on this. I actually gave it about 50 pages before I threw in the towel. Way too much attention given to a nagging wife who knew what her husband did before she married him (serious pet peeve of mine is trying to change someone to suit your tastes). The more I read about the interaction between the two of them the more I disliked the book. The plot sounds very interesting, but I don't have the patience to get around the beginning to get there. Sorry, I prefer suspense that grabs me from the beginning and I definitely was not getting it from this book.


Trina IF ONLY I WOULD HAVE HAD ENOUGH SENSE TO STOP AT PAGE 20. BOOK WAS JUST BLAH..


Angela How can you actually rate a novel you didn't even complete? Believe me I have had my fair share of novels that I tossed away half way through, but 20 pages hardly seems to be giving it a chance. Especially since you are rating it so harshly.


message 9: by Sam (last edited Jun 14, 2012 11:15PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote I've read hundreds of books and after that many I get a feel for a book after enough pages to know whether it's going to be something I like or not. The critiques I listed in this review were too many for me to continue reading as it seemed that the book was a complete waste of time.

And looking at the comments I received after posting this review, I'd say I made the right choice.

There are better books out there, don't waste your time with ones you don't care for and don't feel obligated to finish a book just because you started it.


Angela I guess that's true. I have read quite a few books myself and usually know if I'm going to like a book or not pretty quickly. I have sometimes been surprised though...

In any case, after I posted my comment I thought about it and realized everyone has different tastes in books so you have to take other reviews with a grain of salt to a point.


Shivam Better not to rate a book until and unless you have completed it..


message 12: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote Why not?


Shivam you might be missing something....


message 14: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote But if I tried reading a novel and couldn't get further than the first 20 pages, isn't that in itself worth mentioning about the book? Especially when I couldn't care less about what I might have missed?


message 15: by Nick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nick The first half IS pretty boring but about halfway through it gets really really good. Probably the most enjoyable "slow starter" I've ever read.


message 16: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote Nick wrote: "The first half IS pretty boring but about halfway through it gets really really good. Probably the most enjoyable "slow starter" I've ever read."

There are so many better novels out there that don’t have a disclaimer of “the first half is boring” because they’re all good, that your comment doesn’t make this a more attractive read.


message 17: by Brittany (new) - added it

Brittany Hannigan No offense, but Michael connelly sucks. Sure he's famous, but let's not forget so is James Patterson. Also, I understand the writing in this is trite at parts but it gets so much better and it develops into an excellent mystery. Try reading past 20 pages next time because any author who reveals too much or rushes things in the first 20 pages is into the commercialism of writing, not the development of a plot abs story. Stephen king often takes many pages to set up a plot line, it just depends on the book. Maybe you should stick to Michael Connelly.


message 18: by Sam (last edited Oct 07, 2012 11:53PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote If you read my review, it's not about lack of plot points but the quality of the writing that irked me the most. Quite often a writer's style is unlikely to change for most of the book, it's usually consistent. Knowing this and that I couldn't get over Verdon's low quality prose, I gave up.

And I know Michael Connelly's not perfect, I've read (and given up on) a few of his stinkers, but at least the man can write.


Angela I think it's probably a matter of taste in writing style. This series is a lot more formal than even I'm used to reading. Parts of it read more like classic literature which can be hard to plow through. I liked it but obviously it's note up everyone's alley.


message 20: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote Angela wrote: "I think it's probably a matter of taste in writing style. This series is a lot more formal than even I'm used to reading. Parts of it read more like classic literature which can be hard to plow thr..."

That's surprising to hear. What classic novelist are you comparing Verdon to?


Angela I don't know that there is one in particuar. But his style is much more formal than you would read in a James Patterson novel (mind you I like Patterson a lot too.) These stories focus a lot of attention on description and setting more than action. It's not your typical thriller, in regards to writing style.


message 22: by Sam (last edited Oct 18, 2012 02:37AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote Angela wrote: "I don't know that there is one in particuar. But his style is much more formal than you would read in a James Patterson novel (mind you I like Patterson a lot too.) These stories focus a lot of a..."

Oh I see, it's more classically structured rather than like a genre novel - is that what you're saying? I thought you were comparing it to classic literature, eg. Dickens, Austen, etc.!

Ok, well maybe it is, but I still stand by my review. I will never ever read another word written by John Verdon.


Cindee The first twenty pages probably deserved 1/5 but the whole book deserves a lot more than that!


Lauren Sweenor I think you needed to give it more of a chance. 20 pages? And Stephen King produces a new book every 5 hours it seems. Not my cup of tea. This book was wonderful and made me understand every character. And I really could imagine everything happening in my mind. You can't give a book such a horrible review after hardly reading it.


message 25: by Sam (new) - rated it 1 star

Sam Quixote You should read my review of "Sorta Like a Rock Star" by Matthew Quick - I review the first 10 pages of a 350 page book!


Michael Smith I would've thought the number mystery with Mellery would have been enough to keep you reading! It certainly fascinated me, the entire murder and everything involved in it was quite interesting. The interaction between Gurney and his wife actually seemed quite plausible to me, as people DO marry for the wrong reasons. I didn't particularly notice anything wrong with his writing style, but maybe I wasn't paying enough attention. Either way I think that the actual murder mystery makes up for any poor writing style.


message 27: by Callie (last edited Jul 09, 2014 05:59PM) (new) - added it

Callie Rose Tyler Oh my goodness this sounds painful! Nothing can redeem that type of writing!


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