Allison's Book Bag

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Posted on: April 10, 2015

A young boy with Aspergers. A mystery. An English author. These descriptors all might seem as I’m talking about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Instead I’ve just finished reading The London Eye Mystery, a book that Siobhan Dowd delayed publishing due to Haddon’s book bursting on the scene. Her book is as well-written and thought-provoking as the rest of her titles, as well as simply being a fun romp.

Main character, Ted, isn’t your typical kid. I’m not just saying that because he has Aspergers and so has a brain that “runs on its own unique operating system”. In the fiction that I’ve read so far which has featured a young person who falls on the autism spectrum, the common traits run along these lines: struggles in social situations, lacks empathy, becomes easily overwhelmed to the point of aggression, prefers the logical and literal, misunderstands anything figurative, and excels in math and/or language skills. Ted is different.

While Ted’s strength is not communication, that lies with his sister, Ted does know how to read basic facial expressions. He also knows ways to adapt himself to social situations including laughing at jokes—even when he doesn’t understand them. Indeed, no matter which trait you look at, Ted seems to have figured out the proper way to act in the majority of situations. For example, when his brain gets overwhelmed by trying to figure out where his cousin has disappeared, he jumps up and down on his bed as if it were a trampoline or escapes into the family back garden to clear his mind. Never once does he have a tantrum or any other form of meltdown. In addition, instead of disliking figurative language, Ted ponders what each new phrase means and even shares favorites with readers. What most stood out to me about Ted is his atypical obsession, that of weather, which actually helps him solve the London Eye mystery.

Speaking of mysteries…. I like the one in this novel that is aimed at young people from ages 8-12. Granted, the mystery isn’t terribly complicated, even though Ted comes up with nine theories about the whereabouts of his cousin who never returned from his round-trip on the London Eye. Like me, you’ll probably figure out at least the first half of the mystery before or around the same time as Ted. The fun really isn’t in staying in the dark, but in seeing Ted and his sister bond as they track down the mysterious stranger who gave their cousin a free ticket to ride on the London Eye, and in watching Ted learn to overcome the challenges of his Aspergers when he needs to confront his parents, relatives, and even strangers while on the trail for clues. To her credit, Dowd also throws in a few twists and turns to the mystery that just might keep you guessing until the reveal.

As with many fine novels, it took time for me to like The London Eye Mystery. Once I did, however, I discovered there were several scenes to savor. One is when the Ted’s family learns that a body similar to that of his missing cousin has shown up. In the time it takes for the dad to drive to and from the morgue, Ted comes face-to-face with death in a moving moment. “I realized it was real. I would die one day. Kat would die one day. Mum would die. Dad would die…. Of course, I’d known about death before. But during those fifty-four minutes I really knew it.” Ted’s thoughts even lead to God. Unlike the main character of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time who is an atheist, Ted stays open to the idea that God might exist. Ted also feels confused and scared, traits not always portrayed in characters who fall on the Autism spectrum.

Dowd had apparently planned The London Eye Mystery as the first in a series. Especially because of how she explored disability as a gift, it’s unfortunate that there will be not be any sequels. In 2007, three months after being named one of 25 ‘authors of the future,’ Dowd died of breast cancer. Prior to her death, Dowd published four novels for young people, all of which I highly recommend.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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