The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a 2003 mystery novel by British writer Mark Haddon. Its title quotes the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1892 short story “Silver Blaze”. Haddon and The Curious Incident won the Whitbread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. As a writer for The Guardian remarked, “Unusually, it was published simultaneously in separate editions for adults and children.”
The novel is narrated in the first-person perspective by Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy who describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties” living in Swindon, Wiltshire. Although Christopher’s condition is not stated, the book’s blurb refers to Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism, or savant syndrome. In July 2009, Haddon wrote on his blog that “Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger’s….if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. The book is not specifically about any specific disorder,” and that he, Haddon, is not an expert on autism spectrum disorder or Asperger syndrome.
The book is dedicated to Sos Eltis, Haddon’s wife, with thanks to Kathryn Heyman, Clare Alexander, Kate Shaw and Dave Cohen.
The book uses prime numbers to number the chapters, rather than the conventional successive numbers.
Amazon.com Book Description
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.
Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher’s mind.
And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon’s choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.
Mark Haddon’s bitterly funny debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a murder mystery of sorts–one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child’s quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers.
Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbor’s poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington’s owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves–against the objection of his father and neighbors–to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result–quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number–is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Haddon’s novel is a startling performance. This is the sort of book that could turn condescending, or exploitative, or overly sentimental, or grossly tasteless very easily, but Haddon navigates those dangers with a sureness of touch that is extremely rare among first-time novelists. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is original, clever, and genuinely moving: this one is a must-read. –Jack Illingworth, Amazon.ca –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive “theory of mind” by which most of us sense what’s going on in other people’s heads. When his neighbor’s poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents’ broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open-overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns (“4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks”). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, “This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them,” the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.