The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

Read time: about 10 minutes

A character driven book is a great responsibility on the author. He carries not only the continuous burden of making a book come alive with just one character but also has a limitation on the story line. There have been some single character driven books that have made it to the top of the reading shelf for example ‘Gone With The Wind’ where scarlet O’Hara hardly ever misses to baffle us or ‘The Rosie Project’ in the recent books in which the lead makes you fall in love with the little imperfections that one carries in themselves. Mark Haddon here has taken up a tough job when he decided to tell the story of the dog in the night time from the perspective of an autistic child. Someone who cannot travel by public transport or not go to shopping malls may not have much to say, is what you may think. But Christopher here surprises us and keeps us on our toes. Mark Haddon has lost his own voice somewhere while writing the book. And it is very clearly a sign of a good writer.

It’s eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its sides, 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. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you could stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

Cover page

After the book became an instant success in 2003, it has been published in many editions with different covers. The copy I read is by vintage publications. Vintage publication has got a style of its own when it comes to designing the cover. The illustrations are two-dimensional, colorful and attractive. The cover page is like a wrapping around the book except for the spine. The spine is the trademark orange (or crimson).

Vintage has managed to give the book its own identity while keeping in mind their own format. The cover page is going to compel one to buy their own copy and park it in the shelf.


Being a character driven novel, the lead had to be explorable. The author chooses Christopher Boone to be his main character because it was just in his voice that anyone would find a dog pricked with a fork funny.

Mark Haddon decides to work on the story with Christopher because of the difference in the tone of voice from other people. This itself has fetched him good points since Christopher proves himself to be a dynamic character.

He does not like colors yellow or brown. Therefore, he does not like to eat potato or see poo because those are of the same colors he dislikes. He can recite all the prime numbers till 7,057. He likes solving math puzzles and would like to grow up to be an astronaut some day. He also loves Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Therefore, when he had to give a title to his book he named it ‘The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time’.

Christopher does not understand emotions, therefore, does not know how to describe them. He sometimes comes across as funny when he is describing a death and gets confused when something is meant to be a joke. Christopher is a fun character to read, much different from Prof Don Tillman in ‘The Rosie Project’ who suffers from the same condition, Christopher has something very different to offer us.


The book starts with Christopher discovering that the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, had been killed. He decided that killing a dog is as much as a crime as killing a human being. Therefore, the killer must be found and brought to justice. Thus starts the personal investigation of our lead into the case.

During the course of time, he discovers who the killer was and these lead to further events. The book is the result of the series of events that happened in Christopher’s life during that time. He decides to keep a log of the event by writing a book.

The content of the book is unique. It gives a direct insight into the lives of people suffering from autism. It also portrays how families can play an important part in the lives of those suffering from autism. It tends to get a little sluggish towards the end. But a good concept carried forward to a great story.


The book is written in first person by Mark Haddon or Christopher Boone. Mentioned here are both the names because the author has done a brilliant job in taking up Christopher’s voice. The essence of the book lies in the narration. The series of events that are perceived by a normal person is different from someone suffering from autism. The narration is convincing and beyond.

Though the narration is fitting, some parts may get monotonous. Every sentence beginning with ‘And’ may take some getting used to.

Good points

The cover page describes the story inside without revealing much. The colorful illustration hides the complexity of the book which may repel the readers. The characters are well researched. The narration does complete justice to get into the nerves of someone suffering from autism and story wrapped around is simple and complex in its own way.

Bad points

The narration may get monotonous for those who look for different situations to be dealt differently. The monotone of the narration may get uninteresting after a while and the book comes across as a train of thoughts than a work of fiction.


The book is a different take on the Asperger’s. It is entertaining and informative, at the same time.

Who do I recommend it to

This book is for those who like strong lead characters in their book, hands down.

Quotable quotes

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.

I wondered whether Mrs Shears had told the police that I had killed Wellington and whether, when the police found out that she had lied, she would go to prison. Because telling lies about people is called Slander.

But I said that it wasn’t a proper book because it didn’t have a proper ending because I never found out who killed Wellington so the murderer was still at large.

And she said that was like life, not all murders were solved and not all murderers were caught. Like Jack the Ripper.

Eventually, scientists will discover something that explains ghosts, just like they discovered electricity which explained lighting, and it might be something about people’s brains, or something about the earth’s magnetic field, or it might be some new force altogether. And then ghosts won’t be mysteries. They will be like electricity and rainbows and non-stick frying pans.

But sometimes a mystery isn’t a mystery. And this is an example of mystery which isn’t a mystery.

It’s like computers. People think computers are different from people because they don’t have minds, even though, in the Turing test, computers can have conversations with people about the weather and wine and what Italy is like, and they can even tell jokes.

And this is why people’s brains are like computers. And it’s not because they are special but because they have to keep turning off for fractions of a second while the screen changes. And because there is something they can’t see people think it has to be special about what they can’t see, like the dark side of the moon, or the other side of a black hole, or in the dark when they wake up at night and they’re scared.

And when you look at the sky you know that you are looking at stars which are hundreds and thousands of light years away from you. And some of the stars don’t even exist anymore because their light has taken so long to get to us that they are already dead, or they have exploded and collapsed into red dwarfs. And that makes you seem very small, if you have difficult things in your life it is nice to think that they are what is called negligible which means that they are so small you don’t have to take them into account when you are calculating something. And this means that time is a mystery, and not even a thing, and no one ever solved the puzzle of what time is, exactly. And so if you get lost in time it is like being lost in a desert, except that you can’t see the desert because it is not like a thing.

People believe in God because the world is very complicated and they think it is very unlikely that anything as complicated as a flying squirrel or the human eye or a brain could happen by chance. But they should think logically and if they thought logically they would see that they can only ask this question because it has already happened and they exist. And there are billion of planets where there is no life, but there is no one on those planets with brains to notice. And it is like if everyone in the world was tossing coins eventually someone would get 5,698 heads in a row and they would think they were special. But they wouldn’t be because there would be millions of people who didn’t get 5,698 heads.

And people who believe in God think God has put human beings on the earth because they think human beings are the best on earth because they think human beings are the best animal, but human beings are just an animal and they will evolve into another animal, and that animal will be cleverer and it will put human beings into a zoo. Or human beings will catch a disease and die out or they will make too much pollution and kill themselves, and then there will only be insects in the world and they will be the best animal.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH