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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Mark Haddon

Category: Fiction / General
221 pages; ISBN: 0 385 50945 6

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer


“And then he held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan, and I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other.” That is the only way he can tolerate being touched and only by his parents. Christian John Francis Boone is an autistic 15 yr. old, living with his father. He is gifted in mathematics, knowing every prime number up to 7,057. He has memorized the capitals of every country in the world and is very comfortable with animals. He can read words but has a hard time reading people. He converses with people but only in the most logical way, that is, the nuances of slang elude him. He is more comfortable with facts than relationships.

One morning he goes out and looks into the yard of his neighbor, Mrs. Shears, and notices her large poodle, Wellington, is laying dead on the grass. Not only that but a garden fork has been thrust through the body attaching it to the earth. He is overcome with sadness at this loss, calling it a murder, and he takes on the task of its solution by becoming a lay detective.

He announces his intent to his father who suggests he abandon the idea, that it is just a dog and that he should mind his own business. His dad is a no-nonsense guy struggling to keep a small business going and with the care of his handicapped son. Nonetheless, Christopher undertakes to get to the bottom of the mystery. This book follows the boy on his quest. His logical mind sets goals and we watch as each is achieved. “I was imagining a Chain of Reasoning inside my head which was like this. 1) Why would you kill a dog? a) Because you hated the dog. b) Because you were mad. c) Because you wanted to make Mrs. Shears upset. . . . .” He hits upon the idea of writing a book about the murder and he decides to interview the other neighbors as a detective would to provide material for his book. When his father finds out about it he becomes furious and takes the manuscript from Christopher and throws it into the trash. Later he retrieves it and hides it from Christopher. Christopher comes to discover it is not in the trash and logically sets out to search for it in the house and finds it along with some other things which astound him and send him reeling emotionally.

The author’s choice of Christopher as narrator introduces us to the mind of an autistic. Mark Haddon worked with autistic children as a young man and he brings his considerable knowledge to the story in this easy conversational style. We get inside Christopher’s head and see things as he sees them. We marvel at how well he navigates in the world despite his handicap. We come to see how others, living in a world less logical than Christopher’s, respond to his unusual behavior. His parents are separated but each loves the child dearly and is committed to his well-being but they often become frustrated by his less than normal choices.

Christopher finally uncovers the identity of the dog’s killer and along the way many other things are revealed. This is an engaging and informative story and well worth the read.


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