cover image HOUR GAME


David Baldacci, , read by Scott Brick. . Time Warner Audiobooks, $39.98 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-58621-707-5

Stage and film actor Brick, an Audie Award–winning veteran of more than 150 audiobooks, is clearly a pro at interpreting the printed word. And Baldacci's exciting new thriller, in which Secret Service agents–turned–private detectives Sean King and Michelle Maxwell hunt a murderer copycatting infamous serial killers, gives him particularly powerful material to work with. To vocalize the sleuths' complementary but differing lifestyles, Brick adjusts his pace and pitch: faster and subtly higher for energetic "supernova" Maxwell, firmer and more authoritative for "steady glacier" King. For chapters dealing with the unidentified killer, he uses an unemotional, affectless narration that makes the graphic violence even more chilling. For other denizens of the book's rural Virginia location, the actor displays an assortment of Southern drawls, from the melodious, genteel tenor of a septuagenarian King-Maxwell client to the commanding Steel Magnolia tone of a powerful matriarch. Once the killer is unmasked, much of the novel's tension dissipates, and it never quite returns, even when the villain miraculously escapes to take care of unfinished business. Possibly sensing this problem, Brick revs up the narrative pace after the jailbreak, making sure listeners will be paying full attention for the final surprise. It's worth waiting for. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 20). (Oct.)