It's 1970, Papadopoulos and the Colonels are in power, and this is Crete--quick, now, what's the political situation? Reading this is like wandering into a foreign movie ten minutes after it's begun: Stelios, 14, and Titos, the slightly younger brother of Stelios' slightly older best friend Yannis, are 'illegally setting fire to Stelios' father's plot in the arbutus forest so he can (illegally) plant crops; why--in a gendarme's words--""the land may be yours, but the trees are ours"" is never explained, however, nor why it hasn't occurred to the boys that the fire might spread. Troops plus rain put out the fire; Stelios, Tiros, Yannis, and three other boys are held on suspicion of having started it; and, imprisoned, they watch--and argue over--the effect on their fortunes of the tangled relationships among the villagers, and between the villagers and the gendarmes who represent the repressive regime. Only once, in this long central episode, are the issues dearly joined (the ineffectual teacher speaks up for the boys' rights, while his smarmy lawyer cautions prudence), and it is not until Stelios rashly escpaes that the story's ironies become manifest--at which point an adult, at least, might wish to begin over again. But at no stage will even the uninformed adult understand the particular Greek/Turkish situation in Crete. The book is ambitious beyond its powers to elucidate, and overpopulated for its modest form.