(This review first appeared in August 2003)
Rating:The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. Doubleday (2002), 240 pages.
This book is narrated by an autistic boy who discovers his neighbor’s dog has been murdered. As he sets out to find the the killer, he uncovers the painful truth behind the loss of his mother. Because he is autistic, however, he is unable to feel the emotions of the situation he is describing to us. This incongruence between what the narrator describes and what the reader understands is actually happening creates a story that is simultaneously heartbreaking and very funny. Haddon’s writing is flawless, the plot is full of unexpected turns, and the dialogue is dead-on.
In addition, the cover art is a perfect example of what a cover should be. It expresses the originality of the story, the point of view of the narrator, something of the plot itself, and is a delight to simply sit and look at. In a world of banal, derivative, and sometimes completely misleading cover art (the horribly titled Learning Joy from Dogs without Collars, for example, has a photo of a girl and her dog on the cover but not a single dog within its pages), it is important that good design be recognized. Congratulatons to Maria Carella for her fine work on the cover.
It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house. It’s 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. 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 because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer, for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.