Thursday, January 21, 2010

The London Eye Mystery

Set in London, this engaging mystery features brother-and-sister sleuths Ted and Kat. Ted is the younger of the siblings, and he lays out the mystery when the book opens. Their Aunt Gloria and teenaged cousin Salim have come to visit them on their way to New York City, where they are moving from the north of England. During their visit, they decide to do some sightseeing around London, and Salim expresses a wish to ride on the London Eye, an enormous Ferris wheel that is located near the river Thames.

The line is incredibly long because it is a beautiful day, when everyone wants to ride on the Eyel. On clear days, Ted tells us, you can see for miles and miles. Ted and Kat have been up several times before, so when a man from the front of the line approaches them, offering them his ticket for free because he's lost his nerve to ride it, Kat and Ted agree that Salim should take the ticket. They watch him get into the passenger capsule, and they watch his capsule slowly rise to the top. But when the wheel finishes its rotation, Salim does not come out with the rest of the passengers. Salim has vanished.

The police are called, and an investigation ensues. Ted and Kat are extremely worried, and they want to do everything they can to help. They don't usually get along terribly well - Kat is older than Ted, and Ted gets on her nerves a bit because he has a "syndrome" (presumably Asperger, a form of autism, but it is never specifically called that) that gives him some quirky habits. He explains that it's like his brain works on a different operating system, which makes him see things in a different way. It turns out that Ted's different operating system, combined with his sister's own unique perspective, make for an excellent investigative team. Even when the adults pay no mind to their theories and thoughts, Ted and Kat pursue every lead they can think of and turn up some interesting clues.

I listened to the audio version of this book, and the narrator, Alex Kalajzic, did an excellent job reading with Ted's voice, his precise way of talking and explaining things. The clues are all there for the careful reader, and it was fun to see my suspicions confirmed as I followed Ted and Kat's investigation. I did feel a bit concerned that they were withholding potentially important information from the police (they develop the roll of film that was on Salim's camera so they can see the pictures, for example, instead of handing it immediately to the police).

I loved that Ted's syndrome was an intrinsic part of the story, because of course it's an intrinsic part of who he is, how he perceives things, but the book is in no way preachy or heavy-handed about it. He aspires to become a meteorologist, and he uses weather images as effective metaphors throughout his narration of the book. The characters are presented vividly through Ted's eyes as well as through lively dialogue, and make for engaging subject matter even without Salim's disappearance to mix things up. London comes to life through Dowd's descriptions, and it makes for an evocative backdrop for this gripping mystery. Mystery lovers of all ages, from the book's targeted age group of 10- to 12-year-olds to teens and adults, will be sure to enjoy this intriguing tale.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd; narrated by Alex Kalajzic (Brilliance Audio, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Book Nut: "I was fascinated by this book. I'm still trying to decide if "fascinated" translates into "good" and "liked it" -- I think it does -- but I do think fascinated is an accurate way to describe my response."
Inkweaver Review: "The mystery's small, thick format is a little strange at first, but after you get into the storyline you forget the book itself, and are carried away by Ted, the unique main character."
Jen Robinson's Book Page: "I like the fact that his syndrome is not cosmetic. It's not tacked on to make the character interesting. His particular thought patterns are essential to the evolution of the story and the solution of the mystery."

5 comments:

  1. I've never heard of this author before however I'm glad you seemed to enjoy it. I've always loved Ferris wheels so I'm hoping to get to ride the London Eye one day myself.

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  2. You made me wish I had listened to this one on audio, Darla. Thanks for the review! I especially liked what you said about how the book brought London to life. So true!

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  3. I've been meaning to read this one for awhile now, and you've sufficiently reminded me to do so! On a side note, I like how you provide snippets of others' reviews at the bottom of your post. I may have to borrow that feature, if you don't mind. :)

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  4. This has been a hit with my students as well. Sad that Dowd is gone. I was hoping for more from her.

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  5. Ladytink - The book really made me regret not having ridden on the Eye the last time I was in London! (I was pregnant and feeling so queasy at the time I thought I'd better not push my luck, which was probably for the best!) :-)

    Jen - Well, maybe in a few years you'll be able to revisit it on audio for fun. I think it was your review that had me adding this one to my list, so thanks!

    Natalie - I hope you'll enjoy this one when you get to it! And thanks - please do feel free to do the review links! The more, the merrier! :-)

    Ms. Yingling - I'm glad to hear your students are enjoying this. I was so sad to hear about Dowd's death - what a loss.

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