A clever junior detective must solve an art heist in this New York City–set sequel to the late Siobhan Dowd’s London Eye Mystery (2008).
Twelve-year-old Ted Spark, his 14-year-old sister, Kat, and their mother, Faith, fly to the U.S. to visit Ted and Kat’s cousin Salim and eccentric aunt Gloria. Tourism soon segues into investigation when a painting at the Guggenheim, where Aunt Gloria works, goes missing and she becomes the prime suspect. Although overwhelmed by the strange city and uncertain about his friendship with Kat and Salim, Ted uses his encyclopedic knowledge, keen observation skills, and appreciation for patterns to try and prove Aunt Gloria’s innocence. Perplexed by figures of speech, Ted nonetheless embraces metaphors, relating his adventures through meteorology and Homer’s Odyssey. Although never explicitly identified as such, Ted presents as someone on the autism spectrum—literal, unfiltered, routine-oriented—but Dowd and Stevens (Murder Is Bad Manners, 2015, etc.) depict him as neither a savant nor a saintly sufferer. Rather, Ted Spark has a “funny brain, which works on a different operating system than other people’s,” much like his fictional predecessors Sherlock Holmes and Encyclopedia Brown. Ted notices racial differences, such as Salim’s brown skin, but he seems to adhere to the white default with respect to himself and the rest of the family.
Fast-paced, suspenseful, but never scary, a middle-grade mystery with a singular voice and a welcome continuation of the Sparks’ adventures. (Mystery. 8-12)