A young schoolteacher’s drawn into a conspiracy to free an orphan and discover a treasure.
Frans van der Steg teaches a class of 10- and 11-year-olds in a small village. In the last few minutes each day, he regales his students with adventurous tales of Frans the Red. Out of tales one day, he tells the children he’s waiting for a letter from someone enigmatic…and that evening one arrives with an unreadable signature. Who is “Gr…Gr…,” why is he sending his “man” to pick Frans up tomorrow, and why does he believe Frans initiated their correspondence? Frans gets in the carriage the next night but ends up stranded at the crossroads known as Sevenways. A ruffian on a scooter Frans initially knows only as Biker Boy gets him back to town. Frans can’t help but return to explore the six roads that meet at the signpost called Sevenways. Exploring one on his bike leads him to the Thirsty Deer pub and Biker Boy, now calling himself Roberto, and the mysterious magician Mr. Thomtidom, who initiates Frans into the Conspiracy of Seven. Dragt’s twisty, light mystery tale has the charm of an old classic (which it is, having been published originally in Dutch in 1967). The pleasure in this whimsically Kafkaesque tale is in its unfolding, as Frans meets a series of ever quirkier (and evidently all-white) characters.
It’s not for every reader, but the slow reveals will keep the pages turning for fans of Elizabeth Enright and E. Nesbit. (Mystery. 10-15)