I knew that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was going to be different (and that I was going to really enjoy it) on page two or three, when I realized that the chapters were numbered by prime numbers rather that the traditional cardinal numbers (and when the decision to do so was pointed out and explained by the narrator a few pages later). Christopher Boone, an autistic teenager, narrates the novel that he calls a murder mystery. What begins with Christopher’s discovery of a neighbor’s dead dog and his determination to uncover the murderer leads to a discovery about Christopher’s own history, a discovery that threatens to change the comforting routines he lives by.
Mark Haddon captures a very unique voice in Christopher Boone. His experiences working with the autistic are hauntingly visible in the language Christopher uses. The simple sentence structure, clear outlining of plot (some of the most amusing parts are the passages where Christopher explains that he is going to describe something because he was told that novels have lots of descriptions), and the way Christopher addresses the reader make it almost impossible to forget that he is no ordinary narrator.
The intricacies of Christopher’s compulsions and aversions are part of what make the novel and Christopher’s character so charming. His love for the color red and distaste for anything yellow (or brown). The way that he uses math patterns to calm himself down when he’s feeling overwhelmed. The way he detests metaphors but finds similes okay. These details add to the complexity of his character and create an emotional response in the reader that makes it that much more painful to realize the emotional distance between Christopher and the rest of his world.
What is enthralling about this book is not that it has an intricate plot. On the contrary, the plot is very easy to follow. What makes this book is the narration, the character of Christopher. It is only compelling because of the point of view from which it is being told. Haddon managed to carefully lay down a solid subtext to everything that Christopher explains that forces the reader to work to figure out the rest of the story. Christopher cannot read the reactions of the people around him but there is enough there for the reader to fill in those blanks and see the whole picture.
The only disappointment I had with the novel was that it was so short. But then the timing of the conclusion and the way the resolution is presented fits with the character of the narrator. I may have wanted to keep reading from Christopher’s perspective, but he had told the story he wanted to tell and with that mission accomplished, the only thing to do was end it.
The only thing left for me to do is try to find solace in Mark Haddon’s other works. I sincerely hope to find the same intensity and complexity of character in A Spot of Bother, though it will be hard to find a character as challenging and simultaneously endearing as Christopher Boone.