This is the first Grainger scholar. Employ him."" He's 18-year-old Luke Crantock, headed for Cambridge on a math scholarship but till now at loose ends, restless, sardonic, contentious--except for his fascination with the strange, ""fey"" 15-year-old girl who calls herself Hare (as in ""the hares they chase""). Now he'll be employed at the London lab where boyish Tom Humboldt--he of the peremptory order--is building a Time Machine. But Luke, exhilarated by the work, the camaraderie, the common absorption, is suddenly faced again with Hare--who's come to London and holed up in a derelict house nearby. Alerting her father, Luke learns that since her birth in Germany she was always different--and distant: Luke is warned not ""to feel anything for her. She can bring you nothing but heartbreak."" And while preparations for the lab's big explosion through the time barrier advance, he discovers that Hare is not alone; she is one of a gang of oddly quiet children hanging about, it appears, to keep an eye on Humboldt. All, moreover, have some connection with the German village that his family comes from. Were we told it was Hamelin before the explosion frees the children to live fully, at last, in the present, the story of course would be shattered--but it's a tense, intriguing affair, at once wildly funny and deeply touching, with a supporting cast worthy of those old Ealing films and a glint of ""The Glittering Prizes.