Children’s Fiction of 2008: The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

“Since opening in March 2000 The London Eye has become an iconic landmark and a symbol of modern Britain. The London Eye is the UK’s most popular paid for visitor attraction, visited by over 3.5 million people a year.

A breathtaking feat of design and engineering, passengers in the London Eye’s capsules can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions.

The London Eye is the vision of David Marks and Julia Barfield, a husband and wife architect team. The wheel design was used as a metaphor for the end of the 20th century, and time turning into the new millennium.” From The London Eye official website


When Ted’s cousin Salim disappears while riding in a sealed pod on the London Eye, Ted, whose “brain runs on a different operating system from other people’s”, has eight, or rather nine, theories about what might have happened to his cousin:

1. Salim hid in the pod and went around three or more times, getting out when we’d given up looking.
2. Ted’s watch went wrong. Salim got out of his pod when we weren’t there to meet him.
3. Salim got out of his pod but we missed him somehow by accident and he didn’t see us either.
4. Salim either deliberately avoided us or was suffering from amnesia.
5. Salim spontaneously combusted.
6. Salim emerged from the pod in disguise.
7. Salim went into a time-warp.
8. Salim emerged from the pod hiding beneath somebody else’s clothes.
9. Salim never got on the Eye in the first place.

The trouble is that not one of the theories works; Salim seems to have vanished into thin air, a thing that Salim’s mother Aunt Gloria says is impossible. As the police work to find Salim and the press is called in to publicize the disappearance and everyone works to comfort and reassure Aunt Glo, Ted puts his special brain to work to discover the truth. In the process, Ted doubles his number of friends form three to six and learns to work with his older sister, Kat-astrophe, who provides the energy to match Ted’s brains. And Ted also tells his first three lies of a lifetime. But will it all be enough to find Salim and save his life?

Although the word “autistic” is never used in the book, Ted is obviously a high-functioning, but autistic, child. He is obsessed with weather. He talks incessantly about rain, snow, storms, barometric pressure, fronts, and global warming. He converses and understands conversation in very literal terms, and he has trouble interpreting visual cues, facial expressions, and body language. Sometimes his hand flaps uncontrollably.

The book, told in first person from Ted’s point of view, reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, for kids with a child-size mystery thrown in. Because Salim does disappear, and his parents and relatives imagine the worst, it’s possibly too intense for the younger elementary age group, but it’s just right for mature fourth graders on up. The British slang gets a bit thick at times, but it’s fun to wade though and figure out what the heck these Brits are talking about when they discuss moshers and queues and serviettes. And trying to get into Ted’s brain and think as he does is fascinating.

I have an attraction to books about differently wired brains anyway; if you do, too, you might want to check out the following reviews:

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon.
Rules by Cynthia Lord.
Twilight Chldren by Torey Hayden.

If you or your child has an interest in this subject treated from a fictional point of view, I recommend The London Eye Mystery. Good story, intriguing thought process, kind of like seeing London from the Eye.

Autism Vox is a blog devoted to autism-related news and commentary.

A.S. Kids are Cool is a blog where parents talk about life with Asperger’s Syndrome kids.

15 thoughts on “Children’s Fiction of 2008: The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

  1. Sounds like a good mystery! And yes, as a high-functioning person with Asperger’s, it sounds like the main character in that book has it as well.

  2. I reviewed the book a few weeks back, having picked it up not realising it was a children’s book.

  3. I’ve never heard of The London Eye, but this book sounds like a great read. I have “the curious incident” and hope to get it read soon.

  4. Before Siobhan Dowd died last year, she told me she was planning more mysteries for Ted. He’s a great character.

    The London Eye Mystery just won the Stockport Schools Book Award this week, and it’s wonderful that the book continues to be discovered and written about.

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  6. katrina

    I luv this book it is very good i m reading it in school u will love it if u read it

  7. i love this book we are reading it in my grade for all the people who raed this …
    BUY THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    🙂 😉

  8. Eric

    I am currently reading this book. I really have been enjoying it. If your the type of person that prefers to red a good mystery book this book would be at the top of the list.

  9. shaiza

    In school we are reading The London Eye Mystery it is so good so far we have only got to the bit where salim disappeares.But i know what really happens,really salim’s freind was on the same pod as him and they swapped clothes because salim did’nt really want to go on the Eye

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