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Level 26: Dark Origins: Bk. 1

It is well known among law enforcement personnel that murderers can be categorized as belonging to one of 25 levels of evil, from the naive opportunists starting out at level 1 to the organised, premeditated torture-murderers who inhabit level 25. What almost no one knows - except for the elite unnamed investigations group assigned to hunt down the world's most dangerous killers, a group of men and women accountable to no government and accounted for in no official ledger - is that a new category of killer is in the process of being defined. Only one man belongs to this group. His targets: anyone. His methods: anything. His alias: sqweegel. His classification: level 26.
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Law enforcement categorizes killers on a scale of one to 25, with 25 being the sadistic psychopath. However, one brutal serial killer, code-named "Sqweegel," has earned his own special designation of Level 26. Only one man-federal agent Steve Dark-has ever gotten close to catching him, but the effort cost Dark the lives of his foster family and drove him into self-imposed retirement. Now the agency wants him back on the case and, it would seem, so does Sqweegel. John Glover has a wonderful time narrating Zuiker's debut thriller; his committed delivery runs the gambit from serious to lighthearted, maniacal to deadly serious. Even if the story leans toward the cliche and the breaks directing listeners to webisodes are intrusive and irritating, the delivery is engrossing. It should be noted that some sections of the book are disturbing, and Glover's performance only makes them doubly so. Not for the fainthearted. A Dutton hardcover. (Sept.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

In this brutal thriller by CSI creator Zuiker, billed by the publisher as "the world's first Digi-NovelT," listeners are periodically prompted to pause the audio and go online ( to view "cyber-bridges," i.e., short video clips designed to enhance the story. "Level 26ers" are encouraged to join an online social community and participate in a contest to win an appearance in the cyberbridges for the next Level 26 novel; further, an accompanying DVD contains Marc Ecko's artwork for the Dutton hardcover and ebook. Somewhere beneath all these extras and gimmicks lies the story: serial killer Sqweegel rapes, dismembers, burns, strangles, and tortures his way through 50 victims before the one man who's ever come close to catching him is dragged back into the hunt when his pregnant wife becomes Sqweegel's target. Actor/narrator John Glover's performance is sublime, and coauthor Swierczynski (The Wheel Man) creates some really suspenseful moments, but the narrative's shifting points of view, combined with the need to stop and view the 20 video clips, result in a rather disjointed listening experience. For hardcore serial killer/horror fiction fans. ["This experimental crossover novel," predicted the review of the Dutton hc, "will attract a diverse following and could change the future of publishing," LJ 8/09; see also Audio NewsBriefs, LJ 10/15/09.-Ed.]-Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., Garrettsville, OH Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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