25th May 2007 at 01:00
Nicholas Tucker chooses fiction for 11-plus

The London Eye Mystery. Siobhan Dowd. David Fickling Books pound;8.99

Fearless. Tim Lott. Walker Books. pound;12.99

The Last of the High Kings. Kate Thompson. Bodley Head, pound;12.99

David, the adolescent hero of the clever and compelling London Eye Mystery, suffers from Asperger's syndrome. But his normally distracting obsession with detail serves him particularly well when it comes to investigating the disappearance of his cousin, Salim.

In this tale of an ordinary family going through an extraordinary crisis, tension never lets up as David and his older sister gradually work out how someone clearly seen to be stepping aboard the London Eye can vanish by the end of the trip.

The assured and stylish first novel, A Swift Pure Cry, made an immediate impact and is shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. This book is every bit as good, moving from rural Ireland to south London and exchanging a harrowing tale of unwanted teenage pregnancy for a story which combines mystery with good humour, accurate observation and a direct writing style in which every word rings true.

There is a touch of Hans Christian Andersen in the haunting fable, Fearless, set in a futuristic city whose unwanted children are imprisoned, starved and overworked in what are euphemistically called City Community Faith Schools.

But one of them, known to all as Little Fearless, decides to take on this wicked system. Repeatedly escaping her custodial institution by hiding in a rubbish cart, she finds no one outside will listen to her story. But with the help of three angels, the example she sets finally makes a difference years after her lonely death.

Not a barrel of laughs in this tale, but some good writing and plenty to think about.

Set in modern-day Ireland, in an area where ghosts still jostle for standing room, The Last of the High Kings revolves around 11-year-old Jenny, who, without knowing it, is a fairy-born changeling brought up by an eccentric human family.

She is uninterested in school and undisciplined at home, and her favourite haunt is the old beacon behind her house. But others are interested in it too, including a magical goat and the last of the ancient Kings of Ireland.

Written in a disarmingly matter- of-fact style, this story is a sequel to the same author's award-winning The New Policeman. Like that novel, it too is often weird but sometimes wonderful as well

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