**spoiler alert** The great think about Curious Incident isn't that it is a mystery story about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, it's that Mark Haddon...more**spoiler alert** The great think about Curious Incident isn't that it is a mystery story about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, it's that Mark Haddon does such a great job of reinventing the mystery formula. Let's face it, the Sherlock Holmes stories (which play a pretty prominent role in the novel's construction) are the benchmark by which a lot of detective narratives are mentioned. But they're pretty formulaic, especially in terms of character: Sherlock Holmes is a genius and Watson is a sidekick; Sherlock Holmes is a thinking machine and Watson takes dictation; Sherlock Holmes knows your darkest secrets from looking at your shoes and Watson can't even remember where he was wounded (his arm? His leg?). Doyle needed that structure--he had to have a straight man for his great detective; one who could palm the ace so that the readers could enjoy the pleasure of being told how the crime was committed (as opposed to the pleasure of figuring it out for themselves). After all, Watson always knows the who, what, where, and when, but he's very careful to keep it hidden from the reader by reporting himself as a (let's be honest) bumbling. Who else but a John (or was it James?) H. Watson would be willing to represent himself as perpetually awestruck?
Even though Holmes and Watson perpetually haunt Curious Incident, their roles have been radically rewritten. There's no need for a crime-fighting duo here (a puzzle master and his biographer, the brain and the brawn, or the machine and the lover). Christopher fulfills both those positions and in doing so, repeatedly hides the "whodunit" not from the reader, but from himself. It is this recurring dramatic irony--the reader watching Christopher struggle in coming to grips with the fact that deductive logic alone is not enough in crime solving--that makes the book effective in so many ways. For starters, Haddon is engaging with precisely those qualities that made Sherlock Holmes a literary celebrity. If Holmes truly is a thinking machine, how effective can he really be? When taken to the extreme, isn't Holmes simply Christopher? Or, alternatively, Christopher is what Holmes would be if he were removed from a fictional world in which people can be read like texts, soil can be identified on sight, and monographs can be produced on 140 varieties of tobacco ash. Christopher's world, in other words, simply doesn't measure up to the categories Holmes produces for people. After all, what is a detective to do when deductive analysis cannot filter out motivations for utterly irrational behavior?(less)
In the afterword, Ellroy claims that Josh Hartnett is "brilliant" in the film version of the novel. That should give you a clue right off . . .
For th...moreIn the afterword, Ellroy claims that Josh Hartnett is "brilliant" in the film version of the novel. That should give you a clue right off . . .
For the rest . . . meh. It's alright. If you are interested in a fictionalized crime novel that can really draw out suspense and explore the implications of seemingly random violence, then this is not the novel for you. Try In Cold Blood.(less)