Wednesday, March 10, 2010

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

Book Details
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Paperback, 226 pages
2004, Vintage
ISBN: 1400032717

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.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time began beautifully. The mystery of who killed a dog, shown through the eyes of a 15-year-old autistic boy, was more intriguing and entertaining than most of today's generic amateur sleuth mysteries. Written in an easy to read format with helpful diagrams, this book appeared to be an interesting tale that could perhaps shine a little light on the thought processes of autistic teenagers.

About halfway through the book, the dog's murderer confesses and the entire focus of the story shifted. Instead of a mystery, it became a rambling tale of running away from home. It went from engrossing to dull in the turn of a page. With the story switching gears so unexpectedly, it felt as though the book was in fact two separate stories (featuring common characters) pasted together to create a book. It felt off, like something just wasn't fitting properly.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time's quirky uniqueness didn't translate through the second half of the book. This was a case of an amazing book turning dreary. Had the entire book been dull, it might almost have been better.


Mark Haddon's website


  1. I'm sorry, but I have to totally disagree with ur review. The story NEVER was about finding the dog's killer. Sure that's what the narrator/protag obsesses over, but it's not really the central plot.
    Excuse me because it's been years since I've read it, but the story is about an autistic processing an emotional event without the emotional tools to do so (the death of his mother, if I remember correctly).
    I thought this book was intermittently both painful and hilarious, especially if you know someone who is autistic.
    I thought the voice was amazing and spot on compared to the autistic teenagers I know. Because of his illness, the main character is essentially an unreliable narrator. He's unable to process the emotionally significant events around him, so he focuses on mundane details, obsesses about numbers, tries to solve a mystery of the death of a dog.
    I'm sorry you didn't like the book,

  2. I read this one a couple of years ago and really loved it. I don't think the story was really about finding the dog's killer, but more about the autistic child and how he relates to the world. I thought it was great!

  3. I read this book shortly after it came out, and loved it, even though it made my heart ache. I agree with Alyson - the main focus of the story is not really Christopher solving the murder case, but rather his struggling to accept his mother's absence from his life.

  4. I loved this book, and I agree with the other commenters. To me, Christopher's running away after the killer's confession was really an opportunity to continue delving into his mind as he awkwardly makes his way in the world.

  5. I loved this book when I read it years ago. I'm going to agree with... well, everyone -- including you! I thought there were some awkward moments in the book's last half. However, I also think this dysfunction is perfect, as it mirrors the inner world of an individual with Asperger's. A lovely, heart-wrenching novel that I passed on to everyone I knew, even my high school calculus teacher (for the math references).

  6. Can't say I honestly remember the entire plot of this book (which probably says something about how gripping it was) but I do remember that I was fascinated by seeing things from the perspective of the autistic boy.