Will loves to dig. So when his father suddenly disappears down one of the tunnels he's dug, Will knows he's got to go after him. But he has no idea how many surprises wait for him underground.
Will Burrows loves to dig. He and his father are amateur archeologists, digging tunnels under Highfield, a part of London that was first settled during Roman times. Together they've unearthed a Roman villa and a deserted subway station, and they have separate digging projects as well. Will has begun a dig near the garbage dump, and enlisted the help of Chester, his only friend. They're both outsiders because of the way they look. Will is tall, thin, and an albino with white hair and pasty-white skin. Chester is built like a weightlifter, almost as broad as he is tall, and his eczema makes rough, scaly, red patches all over his body. He's not into digging like Will is, but when he sees some of the things that Will's dug up, he's fascinated.
When they hit a sandstone wall, they decide to tunnel under it, and find a strange and beautiful room hidden underneath. It's octagonal, with walls 20 feet high made of bricks. Each brick has a name carved into it in beautiful Gothic script. But it has no way out. The only hole in the walls is the one the boys just came through. What is it? Why was it built and then sealed up? Will can't wait to show it to his dad.
But when he gets home, his parents are in the midst of a huge fight that ends when his father stomps down into his basement workroom, and locks the door behind him. Four days later, when there's no sign of him, Will and his sister Rebecca call the police, and Will gets the spare key to see if his father left any clues about where he's gone.
What Will doesn't know when he begins his investigation, is that his father has been planning this disappearance for months. It's why he's so interested in the town histories that talk about a vast network of tunnels running underneath it. It's why he's fascinated by a block of townhomes with an extra flue for every chimney, flues that extend deep below the homes, that were built when the block of homes was constructed hundreds of years before. And it's why he's so curious about the strange-looking, musty-smelling men in long black coats, hats, and sunglasses whom he's begun to see around town.
What is under the town of Highfield? Where do the tunnels lead?
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.