On the Bookshelf...

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Mark Haddon

Fifteen year old Christopher is about to embark on an investigation... Lots of things are mysteries. But that doesn't mean there isn't an answer to them. It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. This is Christopher's murder mystery story. There are also no lies in this story because Christopher can't tell lies. Christopher does not like strangers or the colours yellow or brown or being touched. On the other hand, he knows all the countries in the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7507. When Christopher decides to find out who killed the neighbour's dog, his mystery story becomes more complicated than he could have ever predicted.

It's been quite a few years since I first read The Curious Incident in the Nighttime. Back then it was for the Sheffield Children's Book Awards where it ran away with the Book of the Year Award. Essentially it was a novel for young Adults. It was one of the books that truly earns the title of a crossover novel. It attracted readers from every age and stood on top of the book charts for months. A remarkable feat for any book.

It was also one of my book club reads for this year. I wondered if the book would be as fresh today as it felt back then. Would it still hold up in the face of similar novels that had been written since. Sometimes time and distance doesn't work in a books favour, although you may come at it from a fresh different angle.

Rest assured it was still as good and compelling to read as it was back then. You can never have your socks blown off a second time. When it was published it was a breath of fresh air in a tired marketplace. Now many books have been written from an autistic viewpoint, so the very idea of that happening has long since flown the coop. Yet the voice of Christopher is as real now as it seemed on a first read.

I could go on for ages about how the prime numbered chapters added a new element to reading, how the use of swearing added to the realism (Incidentally some schools refused it on reading lists due to the use of the language, claiming it would embarrass the teacher.). Yet the story and Christophers complex character carries the day.

It's still the essential read that it was when it came out. Minority voices need to be heard more often in novels. Really enjoyed my reread and can heartily recommend to anyone.

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Review by
AJ Steel
June 21, 2023

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