cover image AVENGER


Frederick Forsyth, , read by Eric Conger. . Audio Renaissance, $39.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-55927-947-5

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Fiction AVENGER Frederick Forsyth , read by Eric Conger. Audio Renaissance , unabridged, eight cassettes, 12 hrs., $39.95 ISBN 1-55927-947-8

Conger's coldly precise narration complements the riveting prologue to Forsyth's latest thriller, which describes the ghastly murder of a young aid worker in 1995 Bosnia; however, his impersonal approach isn't as effective during the exposition-laden first half. This plodding segment consists of an excessively detailed search for the killer, interspersed with lengthy segments describing protagonist Calvin Dexter's background, from his inception and eventual service in Vietnam to his public career as a New Jersey attorney with a sub-rosa practice as Avenger, an astonishingly capable righter of wrongs. Forsyth's considerable fan base may relish the hours devoted to the warm-up, but less patient listeners will be tempted to fast forward to the novel's second half, when Avenger is hired to find and capture Zoran Zilic, a Serbian criminal ensconced beyond the reach of free world law enforcement. Once Dexter locates Zilic's seemingly impenetrable lair, both author and reader quicken their pace. Grueling physical challenges, chilling escapes, a splendid final surprise and a plot development involving none other than Osama bin Laden compensate for the novel's less-than-thrilling early padding. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's/Dunne hardcover (Forecasts, July 28). (Sept.)