Think of a Number (Dave Gurney, # 1) - John Verdon
I won this book through Goodreads.

The reason I entered the contest to win this book was because I have always wanted to be in the beginning of a craze for a mystery novel series and have never had the chance. I like that this one promised to be neither ridiculous in concept and to be free of puns or cats. Always with the damn cats.

The story's protagonist is a promising guy - old, retired and with shadows infesting his memories and mind. Although the story never comes out and say it, it is pretty obvious that he suffers from OCD. What I like about his brand of OCD is that it's realistic, untreated and unrecognized for what it is (tragically) and has a very dark side that adds interest to this otherwise basic story. Gurney over thinks, to the point in which he constantly sacrifices to keep the fire in his mind continuously burning.

The downside of his over thinking is obvious to anyone trying to read through this book. His inner dialogue becomes plodding and has no feel of crispness to it. He goes over the same thought all the time and it frankly has no reason to stretch as long as it does. After its been established why it is that he's thinking about a subject, if, during the course of the narration he thinks about it again, it would have been more than alright to simply state that Gurney thought about his wife once more. We already know what traits he thinks of most often in her and given whatever situation is taking place, we as readers have the mental capacity to understand what is going on between the lines. It's over explaining how Gurney feels (unnecessary explanation) that makes up a great portion of the parts of the narrative that could have been cut. And probably should have been cut.

Another problem is that extemporaneous details of the story that lengthen this story out. Whether its the case itself or Gurney, there really wasn't enough nutritional content in this story to truly keep a novel alive. I feel that if we were to cut, mercilessly, the stuff from this book that doesn't serve much of any real purpose - and yes, baiting for the sequel is also a waste of time - then we could have also perhaps added more of that nutritional content I was talking about that was sorely missing. In other words, if we lost a lot of Gurney inner dialogue or one of the many scenes that accomplishes nothing, then we could have more conflict and perhaps more conflict resolution. The funny thing is that even with some stuff added in, properly cut down to size, this book was more properly fit to be a serialized one, or around 200 pages shorter than it is at the moment.

Another problem is the main character's wife, who is at best a know-it-all who doesn't seem to have any chemistry with her husband whatsoever. At her worst she is a harpy who wants to castrate her husband, figuratively and intellectually. And yet Gurney cannot see both that she is not smarter than him, which he claims - frequently - or that there is a reason that his mind and eye strays constantly to other women. She is bland and often is there to move the story along or to serve as a testament to Gurney's neglect or whatever the author wants us to feel adds pathos to Gurney. Nag.

Many of the characters also seem unnecessary, whether it's Gurney's oldest son or the large cast of police officers, it feels like we're meeting these people often with the sole purpose of seeing the page count escalate.

At the end of the book, I got the feeling that I've just been to a circus that is supposed to feature some amazing act. When I get in the tent, however, I am told that in order to not make the other people in the circus jealous that the only reason people came in was to see the main act, they are all going to happen at once. Taking your seat, the show begins with the main act getting five minutes to perform solo before the bowels of the place empties itself and every kind of act imaginable fights for the attention of the audience. Eventually it all becomes just too much, and we actually end up getting less than we paid for - the main act is upstaged by the other things happening, and the whole thing ends with you loathing that one clown that keeps getting into your line of vision, blocking the main act. Let's call this clown Gurney and call the main act The Plot, and you get the general problem of this book.

I do admit that this book accomplished the main goal of a book in this genre - keep me wondering what happened enough to keep reading. Although I felt as though the story often wandered too far from this sole reason that I was reading the book, it managed to keep reeling me in before I completely lost interest.

The main problem that arose with this book, however, is the last ten pages of the book. A bloated ending that left no mark on me as a reader, I doubt that I will remember little of it in the weeks to come, aside from my distaste I felt when I realized that this is what the writer had meant to be this book's ending. I guess this is supposed to be number one in an apparently illustrious and long line of stories featuring Gurney over thinking things while he is guilted by his equally mentally unstable wife (the mental manipulator) in which we apparently are going to eventually get the cure for our intellectual blue balls. Eventually.

Funny enough, I have just got done reading what Ambrose Bierce thought of novels. He did not think well of them, and I looked up his definition of them in his "Devil's Dictionary," where he stated, "NOVEL, n. A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art... Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before." Well, I would have liked the chance to see if Bierce would prefer my definition of this book, likening it to a circus, but he has a point about novels, especially if they are written like this one.

It is hard to hate this book, when it does well in the technical areas of this book, as much as I have issue with a variety of cringe-worthy problems that arise in the reading of this book. If you haven't read much, you will likely come away from this book, stating that it was a fine read, but that you cannot put your finger on why, exactly, you would not enjoy reading it again or why you cannot, in a year, recall its ending much at all.