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19 April 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
Jonathan Cape
Publication Date
May 2003
Mystery Novel


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator is Christopher Boone. Christophe r is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colour yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour's dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

Christopher is 15 years old and lives with his father, he tells us at the beginning that his mother died 2 years previously. One morning, he finds the neighbours dog dead on the front lawn, killed apparently with a pitch fork. The police gets called and Christopher gets questioned. He really does not like being touched, and when the policeman does just that, Christopher hits him and gets taken into police custody. When released (yes, the police are notoriously difficult in recognising learning difficulties!), Christopher decides to investigate the murder of the dog and note his thought in a book which he calls 'Murder Mystery Novel'. His investigation will take him away from his comfort zone and he is forced to speak and approach people which he has never done before. He will discover not only who killed the dog, but some uncomfortable truth in his own family, including that his father has lied to him about his mother. Christopher sets out on a journey of discovery. 

The book is told with Christopher as the narrator. I was sceptical at first and when the book received hype, and didn't read it because child-like writing did not  appeal to me, children's literature is not really my genre. Of course, the book is not marketed as a children's book (though it does contain a few simple drawings from Christopher like smily faces etc). But I have to say…this book did surprise me. I loved it. It is refreshing, and as Christopher's language is simple, very easy to read. I felt straight away that I can understand him and almost 'feel' like him. Christopher's 'adventure' of trying to find out who killed the dog serves as a believable plot with a twist. Nothing like this book made me understand Asperger's Syndrome. Curiously, Mark Haddon the author states that he is not an expert in Asperberger's and does not have extensive experience of it. The book itself never mentions Asperberger's as the condition Christopher has, but it is on the blurb. Haddon stated that it is a book written for all those who are different and don't' seem to fit in with the normal perceptions of society, and I think this is a great approach - not necessarily labelling Christopher and everyone else. 


The policeman squatted down beside me and said, 'Would you like to tell me what's going on here, young man?'
I sat up and said, 'The dog is dead.'
'I'd got that far,' he said.
I said, 'I think someone killed the dog.'
'How old are you?' he asked.
I replied, 'I am 15 years old and 3 months and 2 days.'
'And what precisely were you doing in the garden?' he asked.
'I was holding the dog,' I replied.
'And why were you holding the dog?' he asked.
This was a difficult question. It was something I wanted to do. I like dogs. It made me sad to see that the dog was dead. I like policemen, too, and I wanted to answer the question properly, but the policeman did not give me enough time to work out the correct answer.


So I got out my Swiss Army Knife and I flicked out the saw blade and I held it tightly in the pocket that Toby wasn't in so that I could stab someone if they grabbed hold of me and than I saw a lady on the other side of the street with a baby in a pushchair and a little boy with a  toy elephant, so I decided to ask her. And this time I looked left and right and left again so that I wouldn't be run over by a car, and I crossed the road.
And I said to the lady, 'Where can I buy a map?'
And she said, 'Pardon?'
And I said, 'Where can I buy a map?' And I could feel the hand that was holding the knife shaking even though I wasn't shaking it.
And she said. 'Patrick put that down, it's dirty. A map of where?'
And I said, 'A map of here.'
And she said. 'I don't know.' and than she said. 'Where do you want to go?'
And I said, 'I'm going to the train station.'
And she laughed and said, 'You don't need a map to the train station.'
Ad I said, 'I do, because I don't know where the train station is.'
And she said, 'You can see it from here.'