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.
As a bonus, the village is called, in the English translation, Little Town. And the village that Pippi lives in is Villekula — Swedish for Little Town. It is delightful to think of Pippi and Bill inhabiting different incarnations of the same village.
Bill Bergson is sadly long out of print, and used prices are enormous.