I picked up this book expecting to find a fun mystery and realized almost immediately it was so much more. After reading THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY, I’m not surprised it won several awards when it came out in 2007. I’m so glad it was one of the e-books available when I started browsing my local library’s online offerings for an MMGM to cover this week.
Without further ado, here’s the description:
Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim board the London Eye, but after half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off—except Salim. Where could he have gone? How on earth could he have disappeared into thin air? Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners, since the police are having no luck. Despite their prickly relationship, they overcome their differences to follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. And ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery.
1. Ted’s syndrome – Although Ted as the narrator never comes out and says what his syndrome is, I assumed and confirmed from a Google search that it is Asperger syndrome. I loved the glimpse into Ted’s mind and how he sees the world. In this case, it’s easiest for me to share a couple of passages. He explains it to Salim as:
“‘It’s like the brain is a computer,’ I said. ‘But mine works on a different operating system from other people’s. And my wiring’s different, too.’
And at another point, when he’s trying to figure out the relationship between Aunt Gloria and Salim:
“I am good at counting things and timing things and remembering things. But I find it hard to know whether people like each other or not. I have a basic five-point code to reading people’s faces, which Mr. Shepherd has taught me from cartoon pictures:
1. Lips up, loads of teach showing = very amused, happy.
2. Lips up, no teeth showing = slightly amused, pleased.
3. Lips pressed together, slightly turned down = not amused, slightly cross, or else puzzled (hard to tell which).
4. Lips pressed together, eyes scrunched up at the same time = very displeased, angry.
5. Lips round like an O and eyes wide open = startled, surprised.”
Ted’s brain and the way he thinks turn out to be vital in solving the mystery of what happened to Salim. I’m not sure I can articulate how masterful the depiction of Ted is in this book. You should just read it and find out.
2. The mystery – Of course I have to talk about that part. While I admit I had a pretty good idea why and how Salim disappeared from early on, I didn’t figure out what had actually happened to him. It’s one of those mysteries where all the seeds are planted early on, but you don’t realize how important each clue is until everything’s wrapped up. It takes Ted’s deductive reasoning to compile everything and solve the mystery. Very well done.
3. The details – Every detail is important in this book and factors into the resolution. I know that’s how it should be, but sometimes there are throwaways. That’s not the case here. From the dad’s job, to the play Salim mentions, to the pictures Kat takes to use up the roll of film, everything plays a part. And now that I’ve said that, anyone who hasn’t already read this book will be paying very close attention when they do, won’t they :)?
4. The brother/sister relationship – I really enjoyed the depiction of Kat, particularly as we see her through Ted’s eyes. It can be difficult to have a sibling who’s different, whether that’s a syndrome or disability or just someone who walks to the beat of a different drummer. Ted calls it a love-hate relationship:
“Typical Kat. One moment she’s saying how brainy I am, the next she’s assaulting me and telling lies. Predicting what Kat is going to do next makes predicting the weather seem easier than counting to three. … But sometimes, when you least expect it, Kat is nice. When I was small, she’d read stories to me about talking bears and magic wardrobes and take me over to the pond in the park to show me the ducklings. At school, she’ll stick up for me in the playground when the rough boys pick on me.”
It’s great to see how their relationship changes as they work together to solve the mystery. At the beginning, Ted doesn’t count her among his friends. By the end, he does.
5. The weather – The previous sample had a hint of this, but Ted has a particular fascination with weather, and it serves as a metaphor woven throughout the story. Ted thinks of things in weather terms and dissects phrases like “you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife” into something that makes sense to him. It’s one of these weather phenomenon–the Coriolis effect–that leads to his discovery of Salim’s whereabouts.
And since I’ve actually been to the London Eye, I leave you with this picture from inside one of the pods. As always, please share your own thoughts about the book or this review below. I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s read it, particularly if you know someone with Asperger syndrome and could share how accurate the depiction is.
Well, I haven’t read this one, but I’ve read two other books by Siobhan Dowd. I was so sad when she died, too young. She was an amazing writer. I’m not surprised you mentioned the importance of the details in your review. And I will certainly pay attention when I read the book! Thanks for such a thorough and intriguing write-up.
I happened upon this book by chance. I wanted something I could get from the library right away. After I read it, I looked her up and saw she had passed away. So sad. I will definitely check out her other books, though.
Oh!!! This one sounds like a MUST READ! (off to goodreads to mark it as to-read)
It’s sad that the author had passed away. 🙁
Yes, it is a must read. It’s a great mystery, but it also just makes you think and consider how others are different. I really appreciate that in a book, especially when it’s presented the way it is in this one. I hope you enjoy it!
I read LONDON EYE when it first came out and REALLY enjoyed it. It was so well-written and such a terrific mystery. It’s so sad that the author passed away soon after publication. What a talent.
My oldest son has Aspergers and many books I read about Asperger kids or adults don’t always rings true and often bug me, but I don’t recall this one bothering me too much. Nothing stands out in my memory, although I’d probably have to reread to really remember.
I’ve ridden the London Eye, too!
I’m glad to get your perspective on the Asperger viewpoint. I would guess that if it didn’t bother you, it must have been done well. Thanks for stopping by!
Sounds so interesting! I loved the look into austism in Al Capone Does My Shirts. When it’s done well, books can help kids understand and get into the minds of kids who process the world in a different way than they do in such a unique way.
I haven’t read that one, but I’ve seen it around. Now that I know it has a similar theme, I’ll check it out. I hope that this book and others like it do accomplish that sense of understanding kids who are different from you.
I loved your review! I read this book last year because I have many students who are on the spectrum and many of their siblings are also in my class each year. I think the author did a great job creating an accurate character of someone with Asperger Syndrome. Like you- I got parts of the mystery- but the story still held surprises. How cool that you have been on the London Eye!
I’m so glad to hear another endorsement for the character depiction. It seemed very well done to me, but I don’t personally know anyone with Asperger Syndrome.
The London Eye is as cool as Ted says it is. Amazing views of the city without having to climb a lot of steps like at St. Paul’s. I let my husband do that one himself.