A while back I read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I had heard of before, but knew absolutely nothing about.
The book is told through the eyes of a 15 year-old English boy named Christopher who falls somewhere along the spectrum of autism (his exact condition is never specified). The title of the book comes from a Sherlock Holmes story, and Christopher attempts to use Holmes’ methods to solve the murder of his neighbor’s pet poodle.
For the most part, the book has received very positive reviews, though if you go to Amazon you’ll find some reviewers who are completely opposed to it on the grounds that Haddon’s portrayal of autism is grossly inaccurate and that he just adds to the unfortunate stereotypes about autistic individuals that already exist.
I think that’s a largely baseless criticism—the word autism is broad enough and spans enough conditions that an autistic character like Christopher could certainly exist, and besides, what would these critics have Haddon do instead? Even if his protagonist were based on a specific real life individual, critics could still accuse him of stereotyping since no specific case of autism will ever be representative of all others.
The real problem with the book is the fact that the plot is somewhat lacking. Christopher actually solves the murder of the dog relatively early in the book, and the rest is spent sorting through his difficult family problems. It’s not poorly written and the unfolding drama is interesting enough, but I kept waiting for an exciting twist that never came.
Instead of the great downfall of the book as these reviewers make it out to be, the character of Christopher is absolutely what makes The Curious Incident worth reading. Haddon lets the reader get into his main character’s head in a way that is both fascinating and endearing.
If you’re looking for a page-turning mystery thriller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time isn’t it. On the other hand, if you’d be interested in a pretty neat book about a really neat kid, I’d recommend it.