A brisk, intelligent entertainment from the Russian author of The Late-Born Child. Alik, who belongs to a writers' club formed by his teacher to honor a local writer, reads the man's only mystery and finds that ""everything that I valued in literature was there: murder, intrigue, and investigation."" Thus he is delighted when the author's grandson Gleb, an honorary member of the group, proposes a field trip to the very summer cottage where the story was written and the unsolved disappearance it chronicles is said to have occurred. Besides Gleb and Alik the group includes a boy they call Corpse for his gloomy turn of mind; another, ""the Prince of Dates,"" who composes bad verse on the spot to honor every conceivable occasion; Miranova, the overeager academic beaver; and sweet Natasha--who inspires Alik's desperate displays of courage and deductive power after Gleb (for his own pathetic purposes) conspires with the cottage's sinister caretaker to lock them all in the cellar. The urgency of the situation from then on stems from nothing more earth-shaking than their need to catch the last train home so that Natasha, especially, can get back to her sick mother; and the suspense comes not from the horrors of the cellar (the human skeleton they discover there notwithstanding) but from the constantly seesawing effect of Alik's attempts to impress her. Alik relates the adventure with just the right tinge of self-mockery; and throughout, it's his eagerness to play the hero and the other children's deftly thumbnailed traits that determine the action and make all the commotion so much fun.