The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
$13.95 at Amazon.com
Full of surprises, the Curious Incident is a murder mystery. The detective is a very peculiar young boy. The victim, a black poodle named Wellington.
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
When Christopher discovers Wellington's body on his neighbor's lawn, still warm and impaled by a garden pitchfork, he decides to launch an investigation which takes one bizarre turn after another. His strange behavior is both heartbreaking and intriguing.
Now, the book doesn't say so, and I'm not an expert to diagnose this sort of thing, but I believe he may be what's called autistic. Or perhaps what they used to call an Idiot Savant. At the beginning of the story he slugs a police officer who tries to grab him. He screams, wets his pants... honestly at times, he seems retarded.
But he does these amazing equations in his head and explains real brainy material with fascinating, abstract examples. The story is told in the first person, Christopher makes one of the most unusual narrators I've ever encountered.
Most of all, he's a really sweet kid. He never lies, dedicates himself tirelessly to find Wellington's killer, and takes doting care of his own pet rat, Toby.
The mystery of the dead dog is solved, of course. In the process Christopher learns some interesting things about himself and experiences his first great adventures. There are moments of tension, during which I felt terrified for the little guy. I'm pleased to say he comes out alright.
A very easy novel to get into, and by the end I was racing through the pages to find out what happens next.
It's not easy to produce a novel that has it all: humor, a gripping story, lovable characters, terror, intrigue, and a few new insights. Haddon has written a real winner. Truly original and captivating.