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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

reviewed by Deane Rink,

Deane Rink, writer, producer, and project director, is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes. He sends us short, provocative reviews, introducing us to fascinating books that otherwise might pass unnoticed. He has worked for PBS, National Geographic, the American Museum of Natural History, Hearst Entertainment, and Carl Sagan. From his involvement in numerous projects about science, he has remarkable insight into present-day scientific endeavors and their implications, and in-depth knowledge of specialized fields (like Antarctica from his two "Live from Antarctica" PBS productions. But he also savors provides illuminating commentary on literature, fantasy, biography, and popular fiction. Links to Deane's other reviews. You can reach him at

This is a heartbreaking comedy masquerading as a mystery, narrated by a 15-year-old boy who suffers from a mild case of autism.  Christopher Boone cannot stand to be touched and feels uncomfortable with the ambiguities of messy human emotions.  Routine and order replace the serendipity of new experiences in Christopher's tightly-controlled world.  He lives with his father in Swindon, U.K., and attends a special school where such subjects as Stranger Danger and Life Skills co-exist with a more traditional curriculum.

Christopher is a mathematically-gifted savant, and lives contentedly within a world of logic and numbers where precise answers are knowable and the rules of comprehension, once established, never change.  Christopher is the ultimate literalist and we see the world through his innocent eyes, and we slowly become aware of how blithely most people disregard reality and make unconscious adjustments to better survive in the wider metaphorical world.

Christopher's routine is upset when he discovers a neighbor's poodle lying dead on a lawn, impaled with a pitchfork.  He resolves to solves the canine murder mystery by imitating his literary hero, the ultra-logical Sherlock Holmes.  His investigation leads to the shocking discovery that his own father did the deed, and Christopher's world starts to unravel.  He had thought his mother was dead, but he then discovers that his father has been hiding letters from her sent from London.  By reading the letters, he learns that his mother had been carrying on an affair with the dog's master across the street, and they had run away together.  The father, knowing Christopher's delicate sensibility, had concealed this from his son.  Eventually, Christopher runs away and seeks out his mother.

The bitter emotions attendant to the dissolution of a marriage are revealed through the narration of this emotionless boy, in an interior monologue that is alternately comic and tragic.  Haddon's triumph is to provide a glimpse into the mind of an autistic savant with language that is powerful yet devoid of cloying sentiment.  Haddon, who had worked with autistic kids when he was young, has created a moving story of the most difficult kind, using an unreliable narrator who is credible, appealing, and appalling, all at the same time.

Reviews by Dean Rink

Dialogue on favorite books with Deane Rink before and during his latest trek to Antarctica, with a note from Bill Ransom and a digression about Frank Herbert (a.k.a Bookbabble 101) -- a very long and rapidly growing document:

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