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The day the strange letter came and everything started was just an ordinary day in Phil's life: he'd gone through the ritual and routine of high school classes, survived the slings and arrows of his indignant, pretty, 14-year-old sister, and was awaiting the arrival of his two working parents before closing in on dinner in a bedroom community of Central New Jersey. But the letter from his fifth grade best friend, Robert, who moved away after his mother died, brought with it mystery and a sense of foreboding suspense.
It was typed, yet carried an urgent tone, asking for a secret meeting. Phil believed it to be bogus, a prank from the guys, even as news of it spread through the school and his friends prodded him to respond to its terms. A second typed letter offered a little more information; Rob was in trouble with the police, and worse. He needed a favor from a real friend and gave directions to a secret meeting place. Although Phil feels that the letters are not from Rob and that he is being manipulated, he wrestles with the possibility that they might be real and that he owes a measure of responsibility to an old friend. After receiving a third typed letter and a telephone call, Phil shares the intrigue with his parents.
As Phil deals with his desire to help his friend, if he is really in trouble, he is also dealing with his own growing up and his relationships with his family. His sister's reactions to the letters allow him to appreciate her sense and sensibilities. He appreciates his mother as the peace maker, although he does not agree with her role. He disagrees with his father to the point of slamming out of the house and aching for the past when they had been close-feeling that it would never be as it once was.
Ultimately, Phil disentangles the false from the real clues and weeds out the false "friends" who are out to avenge their petty jealousies. His family is united as it sets about helping Robert.