The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark HaddonI’ve been meaning to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon for a few years because I’ve heard extraordinary things about it. It came out in 2003, was a #1 international bestseller, and received numerous book awards. The book is covered in review quotes of praise: dazzling, brilliant, original, addictive, inspiring, captivating, moving… etc.

Christopher is 15 and lives in Swindon with his father. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. He is obsessed with maths, science and Sherlock Holmes but finds it hard to understand other people. When he discovers a dead dog on a neighbour’s lawn he decides to solve the mystery and write a detective thriller about it. As in all good detective stories, however, the more he unearths, the deeper the mystery gets – for both Christopher and the rest of his family.

From the publisher, Random House UK
[Note: Cover image shown is the Canadian/US paperback]

Overall, I agree with the praise. It certainly was an original, captivating story. The novel, being narrated in first-person by Christopher, gives the reader incredible insight into the way his mind works. It really illuminates the way Christopher thinks, feels, and reacts in certain situations. For example, the chapter numbers are only prime numbers because he likes prime numbers. There are extensive diagrams when Christopher wants to illustrate something, and images when he is trying to explain something but can’t find the right words.

At the core of the book is Christopher trying to find out who killed Wellington, Mrs. Shear’s dog. Christopher is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and often uses terms that he’s learned when reading detective thrillers. Through the course of his ‘investigation’ Christopher discovers a secret his father has been hiding from him. Because Christopher always tells the truth and knows that it is wrong to lie, he becomes scared of his father and decides to run away.

While the language is very simple, I think that it allows for the book to be honest and moving. Christopher’s syndrome is never explicitly discussed in the book, and I think this was smart. Not only would it not work in the first-person narrative, but also, it would make the story more technical and less about the emotions. You can really relate to the pain and suffering Christopher experiences in social situations and when life gets overwhelming for him. It was really enlightening for me to read, as I think others have found too. I can certainly see why Mark Haddon received so much praise for the book.