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Group Read Books - archive > Think of a Number - Final comments -spoilers welcome

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message 1: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments What did you think of the book Think of a Number? Here is a place to wrap up your thoughts into a summary, spoilers welcome.


message 2: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments I wound up liking this a lot. Yes, it was pretty complicated, almost as if the author was trying too hard to be tricky, as someone said in an early post. But, I liked that.

Don't know what I think of the idea that someone would write/print 10,000 letters (and spend the postage!) with one number until there was a hit, but someone with a better understanding of probability theory can comment on that. Seemed pretty far-fetched, but at least it was an explanation. I was going for hypnotism or some other mystical explanation why Dermott was reading people's minds.


message 3: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments I found Dave really frustrating in his relationship with Madeleine, and Madeleine frustrating as well. They had that passive-agressive thing going on where they would be silent, withhold information or unspoken thoughts, etc. I guess that can happen in long time relationships, but it seemed so easy to just come out with it and straighten things out. And Madeleine's seeming jealousy of Sophie or whatever the name of the art teacher was, where did that come from?


message 4: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Aug 06, 2014 10:20PM) (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments I read a review on G/R where the reviewer found Dave offputting because he seemed to be a know-it-all, always coming in to the team or one of the law enforcement types with answers and explanations that no one could figure out. I didn't quite find that to be true, but can see what they were responding to. Still, I find it kind of satisfying when the hero can figure things out, especially when I can't!


message 5: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments For all my complaints about Dave's marital troubles, I liked that Verdon created all this tension in the case and in Dave's home life. The way he slowly revealed the cause of Danny's death, and Dave's responsibility for it, was satisfying and contributed to a building tension that wasn't released until the final chapters. I thought that was well done.

I already have the next in the series on request from the library.


message 6: by Donnajo (new)

Donnajo | 3491 comments For the most part a interesting book I most likely will not read the other books. I'm glad I didn't buy it ended up giving ig a 8 1/2 rating. Maybe my mood wasn't in it for this book.


message 7: by Ann (last edited Aug 07, 2014 11:38PM) (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments Carol: I found it off-putting that Dave put people down constantly as he described them to himself as "fat" or "gender-less"(Wiggs) or any of the ways he described the other police officers, especially Hardwick. I think Verdon was trying to provide rich descriptions, but it took me out of the tale each time someone else was "fat". This could have been partly due to the extra inflection provided by the audio narrator, but I found the derisive adjectives to be unnecessary and just mean.
Carol/Bonadie wrote: "I read a review on G/R where the reviewer found Dave offputting because he seemed to be a know-it-all, always coming in to the team or one of the law enforcement types with answers and explanations that no one could figure out."


message 8: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments The book had several intriguing puzzles to solve, the stalker / murderer's eerie numbers knowledge of course, the mysteries of the backwards footsteps in the snow, boots hanging from trees, replacing the multi-color with white webbing on the lawn chair that was brought to the scene. The connectivity revealed of the murder victims was clever. (peony, flounder)
The crime motives kept me interested while Dave's hot and cold inability to get along with his wife was off-putting and his reluctance to call his son, Kyle was just odd, as was his dislike of the name, Kyle. Really, your grown son's name given to him at birth still annoys you, Dave? The suspicion raised from Dave's attitudes towards his family and the inclinations he seemed to have towards straying from his marriage with art dealer Sonia, or in the past seemed unnecessary to me.
The clues were sometimes red herrings, and there were plenty of those. It was a detailed investigation with the device of getting the team together to move the details along working pretty well as well as the "catching the case up with Kline" sessions also helped bring out the different team's knowledge of the wider and wider spread cases.
I was not unhappy that we didn't spend a lot of time with alternate POV chapters in the mind of the killer. I rarely want to be there when the serial killer's inner thoughts are exposed.
In the end the build-up of what happened to (was it Charlie?) his and Madeline's child, that was so painful the marriage barely survived, what was minimally described, but obviously devastating to both of them was revealed by Durmott as guilty knowledge to hurt Dave was almost an anti-climax. Don't get me wrong, I was starting to worry we would never find out what had happened. When we did, I had to go back and listen again to see what I missed it was described so fast.


message 9: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments Exactly Carol, it was an explanation and I would have been annoyed if we never figured out how the guy possibly selected his victims or how he could have had had the knowledge of the numbers (or didn't). In the end, the math was solid and I liked how the team came up with so many of the explanations by building on what others had used as examples. That collaboration, or when Dave got explanations from his wife were solid feeling to me.
Carol/Bonadie wrote: "Don't know what I think of the idea that someone would write/print 10,000 letters (and spend the postage!) with one number until there was a hit, but someone with a better understanding of probability theory can comment on that. Seemed pretty far-fetched, but at least it was an explanation. "


message 10: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments Wow, I'm usually sensitive to that, especially calling people (usually women) "fat," but I didn't notice that at all! That's interesting.

Ann wrote: "Carol: I found it off-putting that Dave put people down constantly as he described them to himself as "fat" or "gender-less"(Wiggs) or any of the ways he described the other police officers, espec..."


message 11: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments Yes, Dave's negative reaction to his son's name (Kyle) hit me funny also, now that you mention it. I thought it was rather petty. I was not happy with his avoidance of calling Kyle, but I just took it for granted that there was a long backstory there that we would learn about eventually. But no, once the case was over he was able to call and all seemed pretty normal. What?

His brief mental attention to Sonia didn't bother me so much. He mostly seemed to do a good job avoiding her calls, which said to me that he sensed danger there and wasn't going anywhere near it. I guess I assume that people in marriages have occasional fantasies and no problem if you don't act on it. In fact, I thought Madeleine's constant getting-her-back- up reaction every time Sonya was mentioned called more attention to a potential attraction than anything else.

The more you write, the more I am not liking Dave, LOL. I didn't have that reaction while I was reading. I think unless the MC is a complete a-hole, I'm hardwired to identify with/feel sympathetic toward him/her.

Ann wrote: "The book had several intriguing puzzles to solve, the stalker / murderer's eerie numbers knowledge of course, the mysteries of the backwards footsteps in the snow, boots hanging from trees, replaci..."


message 12: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments Poor Dave, I didn't mean to ruin your opinion of him, Carol! LOL
another oddity was Dave's only getting messages on his land line at home, messages that were implied to be on an answering machine in another room.
I kept thinking, doesn't Dave have a cell phone, and then he did have one later. Why wouldn't he get messages on his cell? I could get that he was retired, and maybe not a fan of cell phones, but after he took the case, why would Kline and Sonia call the home phone.
Madeline's impatience with him may have stemmed partly from the messages she listened to on their shared home phone.
Carol/Bonadie wrote: "The more you write, the more I am not liking Dave, LOL. I didn't have that reaction while I was reading. I think unless the MC is a complete a-hole, I'm hardwired to identify with/feel sympathetic toward him/her."


message 13: by Barry (new)

Barry (barrypz) | 2963 comments I read this in 2011 and called it well written, but too clever to be real.


message 14: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments Did you follow up and read any of the other Dave Gurney books, Barry?


message 15: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments I think we would agree with you on the clever scale.

Barry wrote: "I read this in 2011 and called it well written, but too clever to be real."


message 16: by Merrilee in AZ (new)

Merrilee in AZ | 1114 comments I was trying to decide exactly how to describe this one. To clever to be real is perfect.


message 17: by Merrilee in AZ (new)

Merrilee in AZ | 1114 comments I just started the second in the series. I'll let you know what I think.


message 18: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments Merrilee: I'll consider reading the second book Shut Your Eyes Tight since the library has an Overdrive audio copy. Not sure how soon I will get to it though. The crime premise sounds interesting from the description. Some of the reviews seems to echo thoughts we have made here in conversation about Think of a Number.

Merrilee in AZ wrote: "I just started the second in the series. I'll let you know what I think."


message 19: by Barry (new)

Barry (barrypz) | 2963 comments I only read the one.


message 20: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments Yes do, Merrilee! I just picked it up from the library but don't know when I'll get to it.

Merrilee in AZ wrote: "I just started the second in the series. I'll let you know what I think."


message 21: by OMalleycat (last edited Jan 16, 2019 09:12AM) (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments I just finished Think of a Number and didn't like it as well as some of you did. It wasn't a bad read, just not a very good one. If I'd been around to discuss it with y'all, I might have liked it better as part of the enjoyment of reading is talking about books.

I was extremely uncomfortable with the mc's uncommunicative, passive-aggressive, cross-purposes relationship with his wife. It may be a realistic portrayal of many marriages, but I don't want to have such a close-up view! In general Dave Gurney seems a cold, distant, judgmental man in all of his relationships--his wife, his son, his colleagues. As Ann mentions, he's a know-it-all (but has to rely on Madeleine's intuitive flashes). He's portrayed here as a highly successful detective, but I'm not so sure he'd fare well as a real life investigator with no trusting relationships. Even our lone wolf detective mc's have a band of colleagues with whom they share information and hypotheses. While many of our favorite investigators (maybe all?) are damaged people, unlike Dave all I can think of have some redemptive quality like humor or at least a single close relationship that ups their relatability.

Like some of you I had a problem with some of the technology. The book was published in 2010 but technologically seems set a good decade before that. There was no reason for Dave to be getting important messages on his landline answering machine except to provide for Madeleine's interception and ability to keep up with what's going on in Dave's investigation and mind. Also, when there are niggles about R Kartch's name, I thought Dave's first step would be googling the name. As it turns out, a google search wouldn't have solved the question of what bothered him about the name, but it still seems like it should have been his natural first act. And a few characters seem oddly puzzled by Dermott's security business--what it is and what he does.

When I read the book's description, I was drawn to read it by the number puzzle. I was disappointed when it turned out to be a matter of probability. I was hoping for something like the killer truly knowing something about his victims that would give him a clue to the number that would be first in their subconscious. That went out when they all had the same number but then I was hoping for something subliminally transmitted by the letters. The real solution took me back to my college statistics classes and I thought, "ugh." But, like y'all, I'm glad the solution was thoroughly explained. I like an author who ties it all up. And, Carol, I had never thought about the postage. That's a motivated killer, to spend thousands on stamps!

I don't really like serial killer mysteries. With this book I've discovered a subgenre, game-playing serial killers, that I think I like even less. Some of the tricks were interesting--the number trick, the backward footprints--but some went to far. I could live without my mental image of Dermott sniggering at his own cleverness.

Speaking of the backward footprints, I liked the cleverness, but I couldn't get out of my mind that the footprints should appear "off" because our heels are narrower than toes. So even with a backward sole, there should be some overhang where the killer's toes actually were. Also, for those like me who have watched too many CSI episodes, when we walk we hit harder with our heels than our toes, so a smart criminologist should notice that the impressions were weighted backward.

Once Dermott continued in the story beyond the first receipt of a check I had my suspicions of him, but I didn't expect him to turn out the be the killer. The surprise was well-done although I think Dermott's revelation of his own back story ("A neighbor said 24 years ago a woman was stabbed in this house") before the overall unmasking was a stretch. It was just a convenience to make the back story known to Gurney and the reader. I don't for a moment think the killer, so deeply portrayed as needing to be in control, would have revealed such an important piece.

The only thing that would motivate me to read others in the series would be to see how Dave's marriage and relationship with his son work out. On the other hand, I don't for a moment believe the last chapter happy-ever-after reunifications with his family and I'd be disappointed if the series continued with Dave's relationships magically cured.


message 22: by Ann (last edited Jan 16, 2019 11:07PM) (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14288 comments Jan O'cat: it's fun to revisit past group reads again with your more recent reading! It is probably telling that I haven't made the effort to read the second Dave Guerney book as yet.
I also am not a fan of serial killer novels in general if the focus is on the killer as opposed to the investigation. Don't pull me into that evil mind.
As i read through this set of final comment posts I was reminded of some of the unlikable traits of Dave's personality and investigative style. Its funny how the solution to the mystery is a vague detail while the relationships and attitudes stick in your head.
For me to follow a series i have to like the MC. This one is not so likeable.

OMalleycat wrote: "I just finished Think of a Number and didn't like it as well as some of you did. It wasn't a bad read, just not a very good one. If I'd been around to discuss it with y'all, I might ..."


message 23: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat | 1448 comments Ann wrote: "I also am not a fan of serial killer novels in general especially if the focus is on the killer as opposed to the investigation. Don’t pull me into that evil mind."

Ann, I was okay with this serial killer plot exactly because the majority of the book was the investigation, not the killer’s POV. I can’t stand reading the serial killers plans, hopes, dreams, or rants. These sections are usually over-the-top melodramatic. I also find them unbelievable because I don’t think we know what they think. Even if a serial killer described his/her thinking in detail, how could we know whether to believe it?

Ann also wrote: “Its funny how the solution to the mystery is a vague detail while the relationships and attitudes stick in your head”

True, Ann. The plot is what draws me into reading mysteries, but the characters and relationships are what I take away.


message 24: by Carol/Bonadie (new)

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7808 comments What fun to re-visit this discussion! I only read the new comments, but your post Jan reminded me of enough of what went before.

Unlike you two, I was intrigued enough by the mystery (and tolerant enough of Dave's disagreeableness) that I went on to read all but the last one (which I intend to read). Book 2's crimes are downright unpleasant, so I don't recommend it to the 2 of you. And the subsequent mysteries lose a little of their luster. But they are somewhat clever, and they keep me coming back to see what Verdon will think of next.


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