This book is the second in a pair featuring Ted Spark, an almost-13-year-old on the autism spectrum. As in the preceding book, THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY, he joins with his sister Kat and cousin Salim in a suspenseful plot featuring a famous landmark. (Author Robin Stevens took over, at the publisher’s request, this sequel intended by the original author, Siobhan Dowd, following Ms. Dowd’s untimely death from cancer.)
Salim and his mom Gloria have relocated from Manchester to New York City so that she can assume a dream job as curator at the Guggenheim Museum. They invite her sister Faith and Faith’s children, Ted and Kat, over to the Big Apple for a vacation. Almost immediately upon their arrival, however, there is a big art theft of a Kandinsky painting at the museum, and Gloria is arrested as the perpetrator of the crime.
She gets hauled off to jail, her sister Faith goes with her to try to sort things out on that end, and the three young adults are left in the care of one of Gloria’s assistants. Having been successful with a previous mystery, they set out to discover just what took place and how they can exonerate Gloria. Thus begins a clever, credible, tightly-plotted little mystery that should especially delight art lovers and fans of New York City. Their procedure for investigating the crime is a fine example to everyone of how to break down problems into manageable actions.
The two families in this book have their problems (common to most families, I daresay) and their interactions reflect this. Sometimes people are surly, sometimes they fail to listen to each other, children are disobedient, parents think they always know best, etc. Still, there is great love among all of them and it is good to show this can exist despite the rough-and-tumble of different personalities.
Ted as a protagonist is very interesting! The author pulls out what some would consider serious weaknesses and shows them put to valuable, even essential, uses. There is hope from a senior, important character who recognizes Ted may have a particularly productive future. This would be a great book for parents and children struggling with identifying how special qualities of people on the spectrum could lead to lives of fulfillment and reward.
There is no bad language in this book. There is one gay character whose same-sex relationships are taken matter-of-factly by the children, with Ted saying “some adults haven’t been told this properly . . .” (i.e., that it’s perfectly fine). There is another comment Ted makes about lying (“. . . I was realizing that lying can sometimes be a good thing. . .”). Depending on your community’s views on same-sex relationships, this might be problematical. About the lying–well, adults know that these are tricky waters to navigate, so a plain statement like Ted’s might be a bit much for younger readers. (Hey, I’m just pointing these out because I myself found they stuck out, so. . . .)
There is a fine passage that people who are disgusted with a seemingly constant diet of “I had no choice” excuses will approve. Ted points out that there always are choices, although even if you make a bad one it doesn’t make you a totally bad person, just a person who made a bad choice, with consequences that have to be faced.
All good things to think about.
With the two caveats mentioned above, I must say I found this to be quite a good little book and (I would think) a hopeful one for readers who perceive the world differently and could use some encouragement and direction in finding their effective places in it.