Review: The London Eye Mystery series by Siobhan Dowd and Robin Stevens
I’m combining my reviews of The London Eye Mystery and The Guggenheim Mystery because they’re both rather short books, so I don’t have an awful lot to say about either of them. That’s not a negative thing: it’s because I was so absorbed by both of the plots that I didn’t have much time to think about making notes to help with my review!
First things first, a bit of background. Siobhan Dowd wrote The London Eye Mystery back in 2007, shortly before she passed away. The book was intended to be the first in a duology, but Dowd only got as far as naming the sequel – The Guggenheim Mystery – before her death. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of The London Eye Mystery, Robin Stevens was approached and asked if she would write The Guggenheim Mystery, and she accepted.
The London Eye Mystery follows Ted and Kat Spark as they investigate the disappearance of their cousin, Salim. Salim boarded the London Eye… But he never came back down again. It’s impossible for a child to disappear into thin air – no matter how much Ted wants to believe in spontaneous combustion – so where did Salim go?
Ted’s brain works differently to other people’s, so together him and Kat come up with a list of theories regarding what happened to Salim. Working through their list as quickly as they can, the Spark siblings go on adventures across London: tracking down the mysterious man who gave Salim his London Eye ticket for free, attending a motorbike convention and riding the London Eye a few more times (for research purposes, obviously).
This book reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which also has an autistic protagonist investigating a crime. As I don’t have autism, it’s impossible for me to comment on the authenticity of the representation, but on the surface it is a rather stereotypical portrayal of generic traits associated with autism. It verges on repetitive at points, slowing down the pace of the story as Ted reiterates how his brain is different to most people’s, but that’s a minor complaint.
I figured out what had happened quite early in the novel because there are a few unsubtle pointers, but the novel is aimed at a younger audience so that’s not surprising. Instead of judging the book based off of how easy the mystery is for you to solve, try to judge it based off of how the characters go about investigating. Some of the ideas that Ted and Kat have are very off-the-wall, but Dowd manages to keep them in the realm of probability.
If you’re interested in learning more about The London Eye Mystery, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
When we rejoin the Sparks three months have passed and Ted, Kat and their mother are heading to America to visit Aunt Gloria and Salim. Aunt Gloria’s job at the Guggenheim is going well, and she’s excited to show her family the exhibition that she’s curated. The day they arrive, they head straight to the museum for an exclusive first glance at the new installation.
While they’re gazing at one of the paintings, Ted starts to smell smoke. The museum is evacuated and the fire brigade are called, but after investigating they realise that the smoke was caused by smoke bombs and one of the paintings is missing. Aunt Gloria was the last one out of the building and the police use that fact to arrest her.
It’s up to Ted, Kat and Salim to prove Aunt Gloria’s innocence, find the real culprit and locate the valuable painting. Who said holidays were supposed to be relaxing?
I enjoyed The Guggenheim Mystery more than The London Eye Mystery. If you didn’t know that the author had changed you couldn’t guess, because Stevens mimics Dowd’s writing style beautifully. Not only does she maintain the essential essence of the characters, but she manages to give them more layers.
A big improvement is the change of location. Ted struggles to cope with being in a different country, and that’s made worse because he’s separated from his father who stays at home to work. Throughout the book, he finds different ways to adjust to being in New York, showing his different brain in action once again.
Meanwhile, Kat and Salim also go through a lot of development: Kat takes steps to start following her dream of working in fashion – a dream which her parents have refused to take seriously – while Salim loves life in New York and is already friends with everyone who works in the Guggenheim.
Because of the events the characters go through, it makes sense for them to be more mature by the end of the story, but the development is written in a subtle, realistic way. It makes me wish that there could be more additions to the series in the future, because Ted, Kat and Salim have so much potential, and I’d love to follow them as they investigated more mysteries.
Another great aspect is the casual diversity. New York is one of the most culturally diverse locations on the planet, so it makes sense that the background cast are of a variety of different races and sexual orientations. It’s another subtle inclusion, but it really adds dimensions to the story. The races of the characters aren’t relevant to the plot but it’s nice to see them mentioned anyway: it’s realistic, and means the extended cast aren’t cookie cutter copies of each other.
The investigation does verge on repetitive. The characters go from suspect to suspect, interviewing them and ticking them off of their suspect list, and it threatens to become formulaic, but Stevens doesn’t use that structure throughout the entire novel. It might take you a little while to settle into the flow of the story, but as soon as the investigation is in full swing it’s nigh on impossible to put the book down.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Guggenheim Mystery, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
It’s a shame that we’ll never know what Siobhan Dowd would have chosen to do with her Guggenheim, but Robin Stevens has written a beautiful tribute to a much-loved author. This was my first time reading books by either author, but I’m looking forward to reading more from both of them in the future.