"Runner" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 441 pages, $26), by Thomas Perry: Readers who have been clamoring for the return of Thomas Perry's most popular heroine can stop waiting. After a nine-year absence, Jane Whitefield is back. Jane, a resourceful and indomitable Native American woman, is an expert at helping people who are in danger create new identities and disappear. But after starring in five novels between 1995 and 1999, she's been hiding out herself, leading the sane, quiet life of a surgeon's wife in Amherst, N.Y. While Jane has been on her break, Perry has moved on to other things, writing several strong, stand-alone thrillers including "Silence" (2007) and "Fidelity" (2008). But Jane, to the dismay of her husband, is drawn back into her dangerous work when a young, pregnant woman named Christine searches her out, desperate for help. Jane immediately informs Christine that she has taken a terrible risk: "For every runner out there, there are chasers, and some of them have seen my face," she says. "It's possible that the most dangerous thing you have ever done is come here to see me. ...That's one of the reasons why I stopped doing this." Jane also knows it will be a lot harder to help a runaway now than it was in the 1990s. "Since then, a thousand obstacles must have been invented to keep people from changing identities, and she knew about only a few of them. Right now, the things she was doing to make Christine safe might be killing them both." Soon Jane and Christine are on the run, racing across the country as a team of thugs, hired by the corrupt older man who got her pregnant, tries to hunt them down. The plot follows a formula familiar to readers of the series, which began with "Vanishing Act" in 1994. After some close calls, Jane and the person she is helping shake their pursuers. They find a safe place to hide, where Jane helps the runner acquire the necessary documents for a new identity and schools her in what to do and not to do to avoid detection. Everything seems to be fine at first, and then something goes terribly wrong, requiring Jane to take extraordinary measures. There's nothing wrong with a formula if the author can execute it this well. Perry is a master of suspense. knowing just when to switch viewpoints and how to pace the action to keep the tension high throughout. And this time, circumstances lead Jane to act more violently, and farther outside the law, than she ever has before.