Little Willie's mother puts him out on the doorstep at half past six ""like an empty milk bottle;"" soon he wanders down the street to watch a moving van load up, and notices a clown doll hanging inside against the windshield; the van leaves... and three-year-old Willie is gone. Four hours later big brother Dick and his best friend, neighborhood brain Johnny, corral their friends, dub themselves the Alby Street Syndicate, and, encouraged by the police, organize a search. In a series of separate, concurrent, eventually intertwining adventures, the children pick up clues which point to a connection between Willie's disappearance and the hijacking of a load of Jewels. Each youngster's role is defined by his personality and attitudes (sometimes obtrusively explicated) and the best of the episodes--West Indian Yemisi determined to retrieve a floating Cub Scout cap from the canal, Maurice and Dave bringing back a grimy tyke who isn't Willie, Moggs trapped in a derelict bus in Smicker's Junk Yard--have a kind of helter-skelter gallantry that kids will like. Probably they won't mind the recurrent cliff-hanging (every chapter ends in a crisis, cuts to another scene) because the action is continuous and the Syndicate is good company.