|Remember Haley Joel Osment in "The Sixth Sense," the "I see dead people" kid? He's got nothing on 7-year-old Jake Kennedy, who doesn't just see dead people - he hears them and talks to them, too. His father, Tom, believes his shy young son is adjusting to life in a new town by dreaming up imaginary friends. But then he overhears one of them threaten Jake. "It didn't sound like a child at all," Tom thinks. "The voice was too old and throaty for that. I glanced at the front door beside me.... Was it possible someone else had come in?" He rushes to check on his boy but finds him alone. Jake is no help: He tells Tom "it was the boy in the floor" talking. Then Jake begins hearing something even more sinister, a strange voice crooning outside his window at night, begging to come in the house. That would be alarming in and of itself, but 20 years ago, a serial killer nicknamed "the Whisper Man" abducted and murdered five children in the village this way. Is there a copycat killer? Or did the Whisper Man have an accomplice, someone who's surfaced to kill again? When another little boy disappears from the town, D.I. Amanda Beck begins to investigate. So does Pete Willis, the detective assigned to the original cases who's basically become a walking cliché: tormented, guilt-ridden and sad. There are two threads here - the supernatural one and the police-procedural one - and North does a fine job knitting them together. He switches narrators with each chapter, a technique that can be irritating when done badly but that works beautifully here; it keeps you off-balance and grasping for some footing as you hurtle from Amanda's squad car to Jake's lonely bedroom to the Whisper Man's prison cell. What North does best, though, is ratchet up the tension, imperceptibly at first, then with increasing urgency. If you like being terrified, "The Whisper Man" has your name on it. But if you get jumpy when you're home alone, if you're attuned to every floorboard creak and window-rattling gust, you might want to give this one a skip. TINA JORDAN is an editor at the Book Review.