Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Michigan gets the Blues

Since Blue Balliett's debut novel, Chasing Vermeer, was published in 2004 readers have been privy to her unique, detailed mysteries.  She invites us to think, solve and ponder the possibilities alongside her characters using the same techniques that they use to crack the case.  It is through her blend of mystery and the world of art that readers have been introduced to Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, one of the greatest American architects, Frank Lloyd Wright in The Wright 3 and most noted American sculptor, Alexander Calder in The Calder Game.

Her newest release, The Danger Box, is set in Three Oaks, Michigan and includes mention of Flint, Michigan as part of her plot development.

It seems that wealthy "Mr. Zip" has gone to great lengths to acquire an unknown object of untold value using four separate couriers before it is delivered to his home in Dearborn, Michigan.  When courier number four is taking a break in Flint, much to his surprise, he hears on the news that "Mr. Zip" has died.  Faced now with the moral dilemma of whether to complete his task or keep the item for himself he finds, to his dismay, that decision has been made, however temporarily, for him---his truck along with the box has been stolen.

The thief is none other than the cruel, dangerous, alcoholic father of our main character, Zoomy.  Zoomy was left on his grandparents doorstep by his mother when he was just an infant.  He has grown to be a boy of gifted talents despite his disabilities in the warm and caring atmosphere of his Gam and Gumps' home.   It is after his father's sudden appearance and the leaving behind of "stuff" for the Chamberlain Antiques and Whatnots shop owned by his grandparents that Zoomy is drawn into the secret held within the box.

During the first of numerous visits to the library  Zoomy meets, Lorrol, a summer visitor and girl with a quirky nature, who becomes his true friend and partner. As the reader will discover the box holds a notebook, a personal journal, kept by a man who changed our world by publishing his controversial book,  On the Origin of Species.

 Balliett draws her readers into the plot through the use of Zoomy's passion for keeping notebooks of lists just as the journal writer did.  Interspersed between the chapters are issues of The Gas Gazette, a free newspaper about a mysterious soul, that begin to appear around town.  It offers clues as to the identity of an unknown person's life which the reader will deduce is none other than Charles Darwin.  Further tension is created by the appearance in town of courier number four looking  for the box, the police hunting Zoomy's father and a devastating fire.

Although the three friends that we have come to know in her previous books are not part of this newest title, Blue Balliett opens once again a door that we might not have opened encouraging us to step into an adventure of the best kind...an adventure that challenges, educates and perhaps changes our minds.

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