Since you’re a member of this book club, I guess it’s a form of preaching to the choir to tell you that mystery-thrillers can have real substance — and that your fondness for them suggests that you have a lively mind and a strong moral compass.
I believe that living and growing are about discovery — moving from our original view of something, through a process of conflict and enlightenment, to a clearer view. It’s about figuring out what’s really going on, separating truth from illusion. It’s about what good detectives do in the stories I like the best.
Great mystery-thrillers are ultimately about real life. They’re about us. They are illuminating exaggerations of the learning we engage in every day. I’ve always felt that the most satisfying stories are those that mirror life’s dangers and tragedies clearly — the foolish risks, the collisions, the frightening unknowns, the hidden evils — and provide sound resolutions.
Reviewers have described Think of a Number as a nail-biting thriller, an exciting police procedural, a poignant examination of a marriage in trouble. I see it as the story of a smart and troubled good guy locked in a struggle with a smart and troubled bad guy.
The hero is an intense homicide detective whose attachment to the game creates all the excitement, all the rewards, and most of the problems in his life. He’s a genius when it comes to dealing with maniacs and murderers, but a disaster when it comes to dealing with his wife and son — a fantastic cop shackled by his own ineptitude as a husband and father. I think that sort of central character helps the book become many things to many people.
I’ve been asked how much of my main character, Dave Gurney, is based on my own history and personality. After all, we were both born in the Bronx and both graduated from Fordham College. We both had high-pressure careers in the city, and we both moved to a remote rural area completely different from what we were accustomed to. And I’ll admit that some of Dave’s thoughts and feelings parallel some of my own. However, he definitely has concerns, talents, and perspectives that are different from mine. I mean, he’s a homicide detective! He has the steeliness, the confrontational abilities for that. He has the stomach, the toughness for it.
I think I understand Dave Gurney well enough to write about him, but I could never do what he does. I’ve also been blessed with a life far less fraught with trouble and tragedy than his, lighter and brighter in so many ways. My wife and I have been given so many gifts — our life together, the good fortune to live in a beautiful place, lots of laughter, our children, our grandchildren.
I hope you enjoy Think of a Number — and that all the mysteries you encounter in your own life have satisfying solutions.
Think of a Number by John Verdon - Book Trailer