By: Jan Burns
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Review Date: October 4, 2023
Author Jan Burns sets readers’ sights on a disturbing discovery leading to an eerie, otherworldly encounter, all perceived and explored by a brave boy and his daring companions in Ghost Boy.
Tyler Scott is having fun sliding and starting little landslides with his friend Addy and her younger brother David in an old quarry near his grandparents’ ranch in Dancing Creek, Texas – until he stumbles on two objects that seem wildly out of place – a belt buckle marked with a B, and a human skull. Since Tyler’s widower father is the sheriff of Dancing Creek, David, always impulsive, rushes to get him. The lawman arrives quickly to investigate. Tyler soon realizes he is an insider on a long-forgotten case that involved his grandfather, who had also been a local sheriff. A boy named Ben and his father John had disappeared years back, and some suspected the two of robbing the region’s silver mine. But the true story was far more complicated and never resolved, leading to his grandfather’s resignation and now, to Tyler’s determination to uncover the truth. His pals will help, while keeping their probing into the past a secret from the adults. The three begin looking for facts about Ben’s disappearance in the town’s library, only to learn later that the very papers they’d been reading disappeared from the library table shortly after they left. That is disturbing enough, but when they find a note begging for help and signed “Ben,” Tyler knows they’re onto something big. Then a mystical dimension will be added to the children’s task - the appearance of a surprisingly lifelike ghost who will join in the search for clues to their town’s ancient mystery.
Burns is an experienced writer of children’s stories, and her zeal for the genre is clearly evidenced here. With Addy joining Tyler in his determined yet dangerous search for facts, readers will see that strong gender equality can be a melding factor in any endeavor, while the younger David, with his tendency to act without thinking, provides credible humor – and occasional peril - to the situation. The children are taking upon themselves a job that the adults are reluctant to pursue, and which will involve a bit of sneaking and fibbing – but never disrespect for their elders. Burns’ plot is directed at a young reading audience who might enjoy group discussion as they navigate this ever-expanding mystery that offers intrigue and action from the first page.
Quill says: Author Jan Burns is a youth yarn spinner of high talent, amply demonstrated here with this fast-moving thriller featuring long-unsolved crimes and three daring youths with the nerve to seek the truth.