Like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time before it, Siobhan Dowd‘s The London Eye Mystery features a young British protagonist who looks at the world in a slightly different way than everybody surrounding him. And like Haddon’s narrator Christopher, Dowd’s Ted finds himself in the midst of a puzzle that needs solving. In Ted’s story, it is missing persons case — and the person who goes missing does so right under Ted’s nose.
When cousin Salim and Aunt Gloria come to visit, Ted’s family plans an outing to the Eye; Ted and his sister Kat let their cousin go in one of the Eye’s pods alone, but when the it returns at the dock without Salim, the question on everyone’s lips is “Where’s Salim?” Ted then takes it upon himself to investigate his cousin’s disappearance.
What follows isn’t a madcap caper, or even a high-stakes thriller. Instead, it is a careful, determined and cerebral search of Ted’s London. Again, comparisons here to Haddon’s novel are unavoidable, though Dowd’s tale is aimed at a younger reader. Still, what makes The London Eye Mystery compelling is Ted’s point of view. “My brain,” Ted says more than once, “runs on its own operating system;” while neither Dowd nor her characters ever specify why Ted is different, it is pretty clear that he has some sort of autism spectrum disorder such as Asperger’s syndrome. By giving Ted a pervasive developmental disorder, Dowd in turn gives the reader the opportunity to look at things in a different way — an in a manner that isn’t corny or belittling. Instead it is a perspective that is honest and true, which is, interestingly, what we look for in fiction.