Ted’s favorite thing to do in London is to fly the Eye. Specifically the London Eye ferris wheel where you are sealed into one of thirty-two capsules and can see twenty-five miles in all directions at the highest point. Ted also likes predicting the weather and listening to the shipping forecast on the radio at night. These are important things to practice because Ted wants to be a meteorologist when he is older.
Until then, Ted lives with his annoying older sister Kat and their parents. For the most part things are peaceful and simple in their household even if Ted’s brain operating on a different frequency sometimes causes more problems than anyone would care to admit.
Everything is turned upside down when Aunt Gloria and her son Salim arrive for a visit. Gloria is erratic and a bit too boisterous. But Salim is nice and seems to understand Ted better than most. Ted and Kat are eager to show Salim the amazing views from the London Eye, so when a free ticket is offered, the two immediately offer it to Salim. Everything seems to go well.
Except when the ride is over, Salim doesn’t come out with the other passengers.
No one understands how it happened, not even the police. Did he spontaneously combust? Was he kidnapped? Will the family be able to find him before it’s too late? Ted and his unique brain might have everything he needs to put together the clues and solve The London Eye Mystery (2007) by Siobhan Dowd.
Throughout the book, Dowd makes references to Ted’s syndrome and the “different frequency” of his brain. That is, almost undoubtedly, a reference to Asperger’s syndrome. Ted’s narrative reflects his unique outlook and moves the story along as much with plot as with tangents about the weather (his favorite subject). At times Ted’s narration became a bit too chatty but for the most part the story moved along at a decent pace.
At the risk of giving too much away, The London Eye Mystery is one of those books that provides a mystery but without being too mysterious. There is a crime, more or less, and there is an investigation but it is not always the center of the story. Ted’s relationship with his sister Kat is as central to the plot as the search for Salim if not, at times, more central.
Being a book that features a character with a form of autism, comparisons between The London Eye Mystery and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time are inevitable (even though Haddon’s is technically a young adult novel and Dowd’s falls into the children’s category). Haddon’s story was interesting and often insightful. But the prose lacked any style and pizzazz it felt more like an exercise in what writing with autism would look like than an actual novel. Haddon’s narrator was also incredibly hard to like or care about.
Ted, on the other hand, is a very likable if eccentric character. Her prose is also much more carefully nuanced. Just because Ted has Asperger’s it does not mean he can’t turn a phrase along with the best of us. The London Eye is insightful on two counts: first showing readers into the mind of a boy like Ted, second offering unique views on life and the world at large–something all good books should endeavor to provide.
Possible Pairings: Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
Sound good? Find it on Amazon: The London Eye Mystery