...which in itself is quite an achievement. Author Carrere's prose and the insights we are allowed into the mind of his youthful protagonist are vivid and given life with an authentic voice. Nicolas' confusion and anxiety -- the building blocks of adolescnce, if I remember correctly (some things we never forget...) -- are heart-rending and memorable.
In one scene, wherein he experiences his (evidently) first nocturnal emission, he is horrified, at first believing that he has wet his bed -- leading us to the conclusion that his education on this front has been lacking, if not completely absent. Other indications point toward this as well -- he seems to be an above-average, 'normal' (whatever that is) boy, who has been extremely sheltered from the 'real world' by his parents. They have gone out of their way to insure that he not be traumatized by school or his classmates.
Nicolas' father is a travelling salesman -- a purveyor of medical equipment and prosthetic devices, a specialty that lends itself well to Nicolas' imagination and the efforts he makes to make himself 'interesting' to his fellow students. Away from home on a class outing -- a ski-instruction trip -- with his head filled with tales of ghoulish adults harvesting organs from kidnapped children, when a child disappears from the local village, the fuse of his imagination is lit. What follows is an almost Hardy Boys-inspired fascination with the possibilities seen in the child's disappearance -- and some pretty twisted inventions by Nicolas and his partner-in-detection, fellow-student and school tough guy Hodkann. The reality they find at the end of their amateurish investigation comes as a shock to everyone involved -- and Nicolas is the last one to find out.
The suspense in this short novel (easily read in one sitting) is palpable and entertaining -- my only complaint is that the character and psyche of Nicolas was gone into a bit more deeply. It's still an enjoyable read -- and I'll be on the lookout for an earlier novel, THE MUSTACHE, by this author.