Young adult author Blue Balliett delivers the goods with her sixth unputdownable novel “The Danger Box.”

Twelve-year-old Zoomy Chamberlain lives with his grandparents in the Town of Three Oaks, Mich., with a population of a few hundred souls. He is legally blind, but has an inspiring spirit nobody can match.

One day, Zoomy discovers a box — a danger box — inside his grandparent’s tool shed. What he discovers inside the box will alter the course of history, and the Town of Three Oaks, forever.

Zoomy and his best friend Lorrol, being amateur “investigative journalists,” dig deeper into the contents of the danger box and find a mysterious notebook. They discover a shocking discovery, linking English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin to the box’s contents.

As Zoomy and Lorrol continue their research, running around town asking questions about the secret box, a sudden fire, death and the presence of a stranger to Three Oaks drive the investigation off course.

“The Danger Box” is an engaging, highly spirited, richly engrossing young adult novel. I hope Balliett is thinking about returning to the charming Town of Three Oaks sometime in the near future.

'RUNNER'

In Patrick Lee’s pulse-pounding thriller “Runner,” Sam Dryden, retired Special Forces, comes face-to-face with a young girl while out on an early morning jog, and in a split-second his life suddenly changes.

Terrified and breathless, 11-year-old Rachel is running away from an army of gunmen, and Dryden, confused but curious, is drawn down a dangerous path to help protect this fleeing child.

As the hunt for Rachel continues, Dryden begins to learn the real reason behind the girl’s story, and why she is being sought. In an ensuing melee, Dryden and Rachel race to find cover from the score of unidentified pursuers.

Along the way, Dryden discovers more about Rachel’s dark, shady past — and her special skills, which puts his life in greater peril. Rachel can read people’s thoughts, and Dryden knows, even though it is risky using her to help him understand why she is being chased, it is the only way out of this endless nightmare.

But there is more to Rachel’s story than she is willing to share. In order to help save the life of this 11-year-old, Dryden must endanger his own and race against the clock to undercover the alarming truth behind this young runaway before time runs out.

Readers who like adrenaline-packed novels, like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, might find the same satisfaction in “Runner.” It is a high-octave thriller that does not let you come up for air until the heart-hammering finale.

Good news: another Sam Dryden novel is in the pipeline.

'FIELD OF PREY'

Violence has never been a stranger in a John Sandford novel. But “Field of Prey,” the latest entry in the ongoing popular Lucas Davenport series, ups the ante with more bloodshed than in previous outings.

A man known as The Black Hole killer is on the hunt for his next female victim. Lucas Davenport and his team are on the trail of a madman whose modus operandi is stalking young, blonde women for his own bizarre gratification.

At the start of the story, a young woman is in immediate danger. She is subjected to torture, rape and murder at the hands of this psychotic killer, which sets the grim tone for the rest of the book.

As the plot thickens, the mystery deepens and more female bodies start popping up around Red Wing, Minn. Soon, Davenport and his fellow officers are up to their elbows in carnage, with more questions than answers.

While exploring all possibilities, working around the clock, interviewing every local resident and out-of-towner, Davenport and his team come up empty-handed. But when one of The Black Hole killer’s victims comes forward about her abduction, a cat-and-mouse game ensues.

Lucas Davenport is a straightforward, appealing character, which is fun to watch as he deduces on his 24th case. “Field of Prey” is routine and starts out slowly, but after a few chapters, the story finds its footing and builds into a nightmarishly compelling read. Recommended for series fans.

Thomas Grant Bruso is a Plattsburgh resident who writes fiction and has been an avid reader of genre fiction since he was a kid. Readers and writers are invited to connect and discuss books and writing at www.facebook.com/thomasgrantbruso.

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