Dave Gurney has just retired as New York City’s star homicide detective and moved to the foothills of the Catskills to begin a new life, a situation not unlike that of first-time novelist John Verdon. (Not the homicide part, presumably.) Mr. Verdon was an advertising executive who retired to upstate New York before deciding on a more artistic pursuit. And if “Think of a Number” is any indication, he’ll have no trouble forgetting about that day job. The transition couldn’t be much smoother.
That isn’t true for the alter ego Gurney, though at 47 he too has traded in professional success for another kind of virtuosity. During an art-appreciation class his wife made him take, he came up with a way of enhancing and intensifying police mug shots that his teacher, a gallery owner, championed. Before you could say Andy Warhol, collectors are looking for an original Dave Gurney.
Ah, but giving up the life isn’t so easy, even when there’s such positive reinforcement. A college classmate named Mark Mellery, now a self-help guru, has come knocking on his door, asking for assistance with a bizarre note he’s received. He was told to think of a number between 1 and 1,000 and open an accompanying envelope, which correctly predicted he’d choose 658.
John Verdon has held several executive positions with Manhattan advertising firms, but like his protagonist, he recently relocated with his wife to rural upstate New York. Think of a Number is his first novel.