The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Written by: Mark Haddon
Published By: Vintage Books
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
Its title reads like a mystery novel and its first few pages read a tad like a comedy, but The Curious Case of the Incident in the Night-Time, a novel by Mark Haddon, defies any real classification.
The story follows a 15 year old autistic boy by the name of Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher has just discovered that his neighbor’s dog has been murdered and has decided that he is uniquely qualified to solve the mystery. His teacher, Siobhan, encourages him to write a story, and he becomes determined to chronicle his attempts. Striking out on a quest to determine the facts of the case, Christopher has quite a lot of adversity to surpass. Though he is brilliant in his understanding of math and numbers, he lacks the ability to understand human emotions, hates being touched and also suffers from a myriad of other emotional problems such as becoming agitated at the sight of the color yellow and refusing to eat for long periods of time.
As Christopher investigates, we learn much about his life. We meet his father, a hard-working, seemingly patient but complex man. We learn about Christopher’s experiences at school and all about how he feels when things don’t go the way he wants them to. We also learn all about the loss of his mother – all through Christopher’s eyes. The further Christopher gets into the mystery, the more he begins to realize that true life mysteries are much more complicated than the ones he reads in murder mystery novels, and that every question he asks has the potential to unravel his precariously balanced life.
Mark Haddon has a unique way of attaching himself to a voice and holding on to it with an unwavering tenacity that allows you to experience his lead character as a whole and complete person, with no breaks in character – a feat that is especially impressive when using a character with such an altered thought pattern to those of an everyday individual. An example of this ability makes itself known early on in the book, as Christopher explains his love for figuring out very high prime numbers. “Prime numbers,” Christopher explains to his reader, “are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life.”
In addition to creating an interesting character, an unconventional hero in a world he doesn’t completely understand, Haddon also manages to skate a line between a story that is heart-breaking, entrancing and laugh out loud funny. It’s hard not to fall in love with Christopher’s optimism and heroism in the face of lofty issues. And it’s even harder not to find yourself entrenched in the mystery he attempts to unravel.
A first adult novel for Haddon, this author is definitely someone whose work deserves some recognition and attention.