Bill Bergson lives in a safe little village but dreams of catching criminals in the big city. He is steeped in the blood-and-thunder idioms of murder mysteries and gangster movies, and talks like a caricature of Sherlock Holmes when he is imagining his future career as a detective.
Then real live criminals come along — and they’re not just any criminals but jewel thieves. The story treats us to pick-locks, finger-printing of a sleeping suspect, falling-out among thieves, a harrowing escape from underground catacombs, a car-chase, and a shoot-out. Bill Bergsen’s fantasy world becomes reality, but because he is still a vulnerable 13-year-old, he is having the scary thrill-ride of his life.
Adding to the fun, Bill and his friends play games (real childhood play, something unheard-of in modern books about 13 year olds) that are highly entertaining. Particularly interesting is a pretend-feud between two gangs, involving complicated rituals and highly creative sneaking about. This all-in-fun “war” ends up dove-tailing with the main plot in a way that is hilarious and perfect. Leaving aside a few isolated passages of sexism (easily redacted if you are reading aloud), this is a perfect book.
Bill Bergson is sadly long out of print, and used prices are enormous.