fiction favorites…The London Eye Mystery

The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd

We took Salim to the [London] Eye because he’d never been up before.  A stranger came up to us in the queue, offering us a free ticket.  We took it and gave it to Salim.  We shouldn’t have done this, but we did.  He went up on his own at 11.32, 24 May, and was due to come down at 12.02 the same day.  He turned and waved to Kat and me as he boarded, but you couldn’t see his face, just his shadow.  They sealed him in with twenty other people whom we didn’t know.
Kat and I tracked Salim’s capsule as it made its orbit…We saw the people bunch up as the capsule came back down, facing northeast toward the automatic camera for the souvenir photograph…Then the capsule landed.  The doors opened and the passengers came out in twos and threes…
But Salim wasn’t among them.
We waited for the next capsule and the next and the one after that.  He still didn’t appear. Somewhere, somehow, in the thirty minutes of riding the Eye, in his sealed capsule, he had vanished off the face of the earth.  This is how having a funny brain that runs on a different operating system from other people’s helped me to figure out what had happened.

12-year-old Ted and his older sister, Kat, are entertaining their teen-aged cousin, Salim,  for a few days before he moves to New York City.  The London Eye is Salim’s top-choice attraction, and due to the slightly-odd kindness of a stranger, Salim gets a free ticket to ride.  What goes up must come down, mustn’t it?  Yet, Salim does not emerge from his capsule, and Kat and Ted are propelled into the detective business to find out what could have possibly happened to him.

Ted has “a syndrome” as he says; his brain works differently than others’. Apparently he is mildly autistic.  As the narrator of the story, we see the world, the family, the mystery, through Ted’s eyes, and herein lies a boatload of fascination quite besides the mystery.  As Ted processes the idioms he regularly struggles with, as he evaluates clues, as he works to interpret facial expression, to tolerate affection, to overcome his fears, we come to absolutely love this guy.  

Meanwhile, the mystery sends him and Kat all around the Underground, up in the Eye, into the bedlam of a motorcycle convention, and everywhere in between.  Theirs is a combative relationship normally, but they do their best to overcome friction for the sake of Salim.  Although most of the adults in their world do not truly listen to their theories, there are a satisfying few who grasp that Ted’s way of seeing the world isn’t just to be tolerated, but to be utterly respected; his way of seeing provides just the right keen angles for solving this curious, gripping mystery.

Best elements of the book:  I really love Ted’s character, as well as that of Inspector Detective Pearce.  I love the setting, and the mystery hangs together quite believably.  Okay, and I love the sprinkling of Brit-speak (trainers, petrol, mobile phones). I’m recommending it for ages 12 and up.  There’s a steady use of fairly strong language, as well as some thematically dark streaks as Ted processes thoughts of death, the police turn up a corpse to identify, and Kat wonders about kidnapping and sexual predators.  These dark streaks do not dominate the story, but do bump the book up to a more mature reading audience in my opinion.

If a London mystery seems just the thing while the Games are on, your older kids might give this a whirl.

Here’s the Amazon link:    The London Eye Mystery