As mentioned, the story features Roderick "Drawers" Random--a precocious 12-year-old who fancies himself a small-town version of Sexton Blake. His father has him on a regimen of reading the classics--but Drawers has fixed himself up a secret hideout where he can read Astounding Stories and other pulp magazines in peace. That is until the owner of the property where his cozy little shed shelters in the tangled, neglected garden manages to get himself killed. Then Drawers finds himself drawn into the real-life realm of mystery and excitement that surrounds his odd neighbors, the Twiggs.
There are many clues and interesting items that are soon brought to Drawers' attention (and through him to Peter Mood)--from the rumor of the Seven Black Babies (which may or may not be gems) to the sprightly, talking starling to the regular parade of Twiggs who visit him in the Gas House (his humble hideout). They're all on a treasure hunt for the Babies; they're all trying to keep that fact from the others. And one of them is a murderer. But which one?
I'll just tell you upfront--this is not exactly the most intricate and literary vintage mystery. It's not even the best example of the genre. But it is fun. Drawers is an appealing character. And it's very entertaining to watch him make his way through adventures not unlike those his pulp heroes have faced--rats in the cellar, being jumped and searched, facing a gas-masked villain intent to kill. All the thrills and chills of the early adventure/detective stories. And his poor father--completely oblivious to everything. It's totally worth it just for Mr. Random's speech to Drawers about murderous strangers running amok in their small town.
"This morning's paper carries the story of a murder in this very neighborhood. No one you would know, of course--an older man. I really didn't read the whole story, but I gathered he used to live over on the next street. Therefore I think it wise that you should be careful not to speak to strangers. If they offer you candy or an automobile ride, you must refuse and get away from them quickly. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir. I'll be very careful."
"And Roderick..." His father hesitated. "Roderick, of course I know I don't need to say this, but if I were you I would be very careful not to go out after dark, even with any of your little friends." [Oh, how little he knows his son...]
"Yes sir," said Drawers. "I suppose, sir, it would be all right if I...talked on the telephone?"
"Yes, Roderick," Said Mr. Random gravely. "But don't let anybody lure you away from the house on a false errand."
I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this book full of good solid fun.
Oh...and one more favorite quote:
It's a lot easier to like people when they can't make life miserable for you any more.
**One small note: There is a usage of the N-word. It's not in reference to actual characters in the story, but it's a phrase of the time and may offend some.