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DR. NICK VANDEROFF, 64, retired marketing analytic expert, hopes to reestablish a relationship with his single-parent daughter MARY, 35, and her daughter, math-prodigy HOLLY, 12. When a ruthless serial killer, the Gun Crier, suddenly escalates his shootings, a desperate Dallas police department enlists Nick’s unorthodox consumer behavior techniques to help find and stop him. Nick’s analysis gives much greater intelligence and the police nearly catch the Gun Crier who then kidnaps Holly in revenge. Nick is forced to ransom away his analytic secrets and craft an irresistible offer in a deadly trade with a madman.
Grigsby uses his career in marketing analytics to craft an intriguing scenario where a retired marketing executive named Nick Vanderoff aids in tracking down a serial killer. Vanderoff is a loner whose lack of sensitivity alienated him from his daughter and put him on suspension from his job as a teacher. However, he bonds with his granddaughter Holly, a 12-year-old math genius struggling to fit in after skipping two grades. The serial killer is a math teacher named David Bar David who lost his pregnant wife to a school shooting–and takes his bloody revenge by way of a particular spiral mathematical sequence called the golden phi. He works with his pedophile brother Solomon and calls himself the Gun Crier.

When Nick's statistical models correctly predict David’s target sites, the killer retaliates by kidnapping Holly. There's an unspoken similarity between Nick and David in that they both are more comfortable with numbers than people, but, ultimately, Nick fighting for his granddaughter's life and his efforts to awkwardly connect with others sets him apart from the psychotically broken David. The accounts of Nick’s efforts to predict and understand the killer are compelling, and when Grigsby focuses on him, Holly, and David, the narrative is lively and tense.

When the narrative veers off into a burgeoning romance for Nick or the many other side characters, the dialogue feels less confident and the characterization two-dimensional, such as the FBI agent of Chinese descent who speaks in broken English. The danger to Holly is often uncomfortably lurid, serving to obscure the motivations and reactions of a villain who otherwise has a pained, interesting backstory. Still, the procedural aspects of the narrative are unique thanks to their reliance on statistical modeling, and much of the character-building goes above and beyond in creating fully-realized heroes and villains.

Takeaway: This surprising, occasionally lurid thriller finds a retiree tracking a killer through marketing analytics.

Great for fans of: Guillermo Martinez’s The Oxford Murders, John Sandford’s Rules of Prey.

Production grades
Cover: C+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-