The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a first-person narrative by a 15-year-old autistic boy named Christopher.
Christopher is brilliant at math. He knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057 (and he numbers his chapters in sequential primes, rather than sequential integers), he excels at logic puzzles, and he pays great attention to detail.
Although Christopher is certainly capable intellectually, he has social and emotional issues. He has difficulty relating to other people, he can’t stand to be touched (even by his parents), he hates the colors yellow and brown, and he closes his eyes and groans when he gets overwhelmed.
After Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog murdered outside, it becomes Christopher’s mission to solve the case. Motivated by the dog’s murder, his love of Sherlock Holmes, and his teacher’s encouragement to write a story, Christopher begins to tell his story in the form of a mystery novel.
I heard about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when I saw it compared to Flowers for Algernon, which I read last month. Both books are narrated by disabled men. In the case of The Curious Incident…, the narrator is a boy with autism (Asperger’s); in Flowers for Algernon, the narrator is a man with a low IQ who quickly transitions into a genius and back again. Both stories had special meaning for me, because I have cousins with autism and a grandpa with Alzheimer’s. While Flowers for Algernon was a much more emotional read for me, both books were fascinating because of their unusual perspectives.
Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.
Although the book starts out as a mystery about who murdered the neighbor’s dog, the real heart of the book is in seeing things through Christopher’s point of view. I really enjoyed how he tried to make sense of the world and I was thrilled when he mentioned the Monty Hall problem, which is a favorite logic puzzle of mine.
Perhaps also worth mentioning is that the story takes place in England, so there are lots of British terms and phrases (for example, “maths” instead of “math”). I even had to look up a few things like “snooker” and “orange squash.” 😛