I was out of town with my cousins last weekend for a special marathon of our current favorite show,The Big Bang Theory, and what is fast becoming a weekend tradition: gaming (the hidden object and action strategy type).  Dianne mentioned a book she read recently, and of course when either of us talks about a book we like, the other eventually reads it (because we feed off each other’s compulsions that way!), and so I ended up borrowing her copy of The London Eye Mystery with me to read in between our marathon sessions.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd is a British YA mystery novel that bagged the Book Sense Children’s Pick List Award 2008, School Library Journal Best Books of the Year Award 2008, the Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice Award 2008, the Horn Book Fanfare Award 2008, the Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books Award, and the Book Links Lasting Connection Award 2008.

Siblings Ted and Kat are on their half-term holiday when their Auntie Glo and cousin Salim come to visit them in London en route to their new life in Manhattan, where their aunt will work as an art curator.

They squeeze in one last day of sightseeing, taking Salim to ride the London Eye.

The cousins line up and watch Salim get on the Ferris wheel, track the pod he rides in, and wait for the ride to stop. The doors open, and all the riders disembark, but Salim is nowhere to be found.

The whole family is frantic, especially Aunt Glo, because it’s the day before their flight. The police are notified and everyone has their own theory of what could have happened, but still no trace of Salim.

Ted (who has an unspecified syndrome that appears to be Asperger’s — the book describes him to have a brain that “runs on its own operating system”) forms a grudging alliance with Kat to solve the mystery of Salim’s disappearance.

I liked The London Eye Mystery because it was a quick, satisfying read, with a mystery that unfolded logically and tied up neatly in the end.

This book strongly reminded me of the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Ted isn’t a mathematical genius like Christopher, but he’s more high-functioning, so the narrative in The London Eye Mystery isn’t as fragmented. Curious Incident focuses more on the syndrome, which is compelling stuff, but now that I think about it, it ended up losing track of the “curious incident” and moved on to more complicated issues such as abuse and family dynamics.

On the other hand, The London Eye Mystery doesn’t really go into the details of Ted’s condition but his thought processes are incorporated into his narration, and it does stays on the path of the mystery. All in all, I enjoyed the novel and thought it struck a pretty good balance between exploring a special topic and telling a mystery story. Perhaps younger readers can read this book first before sinking their teeth into the more complex Curious Incident.

***

The London Eye Mystery, on loan from Dianne, 4/5 stars

Book #81 for 2010

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