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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Paperback – May 18, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 3,391 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries; 1st edition (May 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032717
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032716
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,391 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mark Haddon has written a moving novel about love and bravery through the eyes of a British autistic boy. Christopher discovers his neighbor's poodle dead, impaled by a pitchfork, and, because he adores puzzles, he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington . But Christopher is autistic, a boy who doesn't like to be touched and cannot decipher emotions beyond the tools his teacher has taught him, and so the task requires the huge effort of testing rules and facing his own fears. A literalist by neurology, he deconstructs life into a set of mathematical equations and physical laws. This unique perspective makes him a good detective on one level, where clues and logic rule, but it also fails him on another, higher one because he cannot understand the magnitude of what he uncovers.
That Haddon was able to write a book from Christopher's point of view with all his quirks and still make him lovable is extraordinary. By necessity, the writing is simple and unadorned, but the language of details elevates it from the mundane. The insertion of mathematical puzzles and drawings add to the reader's understanding of how Christopher's mind works. Haddon's real skill is an understatement that allows the reader to comprehend what is going on even if Christopher cannot. Although Christopher cannot grasp subtlety and nuances, the reader can, and that's where the true force of this exceptional novel lies.
This short, easy to read book can be completed in a couple of sittings, although its impact will last much longer. Highly recommended for a general readership.
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Format: Paperback
I doubt my review will be worth anything, what with there being 1,400-plus reviews already. But I thought I should tell of my opinion seeing as I am mildly autistic myself, & have interacted with other autistic beings from all across the spectrum.

I'm sure you already know what this book is focused on: a 15-year-old boy named Christopher, plagued by a case of autism more severe than my own, & he plays the literal-minded narrator. Indeed the author pulls very hard to make Christopher sound like an authentic autistic person, & I can't say he failed. This story is more about him than the murdered dog, his family's turmoil, anything.
& yet I had a very hard time liking Christopher. His character never shines a single moment of empathy for others. Very bluntly he tells his audience of the people surrounding him, but his voice holds such devoid distance as if these people are hollow shells not quite alive. At one point in the story, a torn person pleas for Christopher to hold their hand... just this once, & Christopher refuses apathically.
I strongly dislike being touched, however I will suck it up & allow myself to be touched or even reach out to hug someone if I feel they truly need it.
As much as I know that these are the lines that separate the mild from the severe cases, it still remains hard for me to feel for Christopher knowing that he cannot feel for others beyond himself. (On another note, some people with autism are known to feel physical pain with skin to skin contact. Christopher never mentions such a thing, so it seems clear that he `feels' like me when it comes to touching.)

Despite this stoic nature, the story unfolds in such a way that others' emotions bleed through the pages via bits of dialog & in their simple actions.
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By A Customer on September 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What I loved about this book is the graceful way Haddon uses the literal mind of Christopher to develop our understanding of his life. No neurotypical person may ever fully grasp the working of the autistic mind. We must rely on them to tell us, and as we see with Christopher, the viewpoint is told in language quite different from the words we neurotypicals usually use for description. Many books written by parents or teachers of autistic people tell what they see in their neurotypical words. Christopher tells us from his words and his descriptions. Very clever. Does Haddon get all the details precisely right? Perhaps people with autism in a book group discussion might be able to tell us that.
I must respectfully disagree with the parent of a child with Asperger Syndrome whose rating of this book gave it only a "1."
I, too, have a child with Asperger Syndrome, and I found Haddon's novel to be an entertaining read, a fine story, and a rare peek inside the workings of my son's mind. Certainly Christopher isn't my child -- just as every literary hero or heroine is not an exact replica of a true life man or woman. I found surprising insight in how Christopher tells his story ... and it is insight into my own son and the other people I know who have autism. Christopher's eating preferences, literal thinking, sensory difficulties, and math facts as a calming technique seem quite accurate.
As to the comment about savant capabilities. People with Asperger Syndrome must have a perseverating interest; it is part of the psychiatric diagnosis. In creating a character whose interest is math, Haddon hasn't done "rainman" sterotyping, nor is he creating a circus freak to entertain us. He's shown us into one character's world.
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