Joe's Reviews > The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
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May 28, 08



The concept is interesting: narrating the novel through the POV of an autistic boy. The chapters are cleverly numbered by prime numbers, which ties in with the novel. It has interesting illustrations and diagrams to look at. However, I would not recommend this because it disappointed me and I couldn't, in good conscience, tell anyone to read a book I was disappointed in.

I guess my disappointment lies in the fact that not only did my book club tout this as a mystery novel but also many of the literary reviews I read as well. What I was expecting was an exciting roller coaster ride mystery about an autistic boy trying to find the killer of his neighbor's dog and, as he slowly sleuths out the killer, finds himself embroiled in dangerous life threatening situations. Kind of like Tartt's The Little Friend told from an autistic POV.

However, The Curious Incident... is not a mystery in any way, shape or form and because of this, the autistic POV begins to wear thin by the second half of the novel remaining sometimes fascinating yet sometimes tedious. Instead, you get a novel that starts off as a promising murder mystery. At the first half of the novel, the mystery is solved. Or rather we're unceremoniously told who is the murderer of the dog. From that point, the second half of the novel hugely focuses on Christopher attempting to travel to London by himself. A difficult task considering Christopher is autistic, hates crowds and can't stand to be touched by people. I won't tell who the murderer is or why Christopher takes off to London, as these are the only two real surprises of the novel. I will say overall this was a huge disappointment to me. I thought I was getting an exciting murder mystery and instead I got a highly readable family melodrama. Perhaps if this was not pushed as a murder mystery I would have enjoyed it much more.

An interesting read but I wouldn't recommend it.

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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim The way this book was mis-promoted by its publisher just demonstrates the skewed power relationship between publishers and authors. I'm sure some bright bulb at Doubleday said, 'Hey, mysteries are popular, autism is not.' and so a marketing strategy was born.

I loved the book, but I knew what I was getting before I began. I'm sure that I'd be disappointed if, say, Inspector Morse spent 300 or so pages doing his taxes or rearranging his record collection.


She-Who-Reads You said, "The Curious Incident... is not a mystery in any way, shape or form."

I would argue this point. On the one hand, you're right -- despite Christopher's insistence on "detecting," this is not a detective story. It's not a genre mystery. If you're looking for a story of the type shelved in the mystery section of the bookstore, you're in for disappointment.

On the other hand it is, most certainly, a mystery. The world is a mystery to Christopher -- other people's motivations, other people's emotions, even his own emotions, are all completely mysterious to him. This book is the story of his quest to find a way of making sense of what, to him, is senseless and incomprehensible. As much as autistic people are confusing and mysterious to "normal" people, so we are to them; all we can do is grope for some way to meet in the middle, to find some kind of common understanding.

A mystery is the perfect metaphor for this story.


message 3: by Joe (last edited Jan 10, 2010 09:15PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe I absolutely agree with where you're coming from in that regard She Who Reads. Had critical reviews and my book club marketed the novel in that manner, I most certianly would have enjoyed it more. I really thought I was in for a mystery novel in a literal sense, not a mystery novel in a figurative and metaphorical sense. Thanks for your insights. Maybe I will re-read it with this in mind.


Abigail So if a book doesn't meet your pre-conceived expectations, you don't like it? Weird...


message 5: by Joe (last edited May 19, 2008 12:20PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe Nooooo..... Abi, but my book club marketed this book in such a manner that I did have expectations of what the book would be about. I didn't know what to expect of the novel outside of hearing that it was a gripping mystery of a murdered dog told from the POV of an autistic boy. It was kind of like ordering lasagna but you get spaghetti instead: similar but not quite what you were expecting. However, regardless of that fact, I didn't particularly like the book.


Carly Svamvour Well, thanks . . . this thread is actually ABOUT the book! Ha Ha!

I found this book something that left you thinking about autistic people.

Don't think I'll read it again, but it was enjoyable when I did it on audio one summer, while gardening.




message 7: by Tomid (last edited Jan 11, 2010 04:43AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Tomid Tomid "The chapters are cleverly numbered by prime numbers, which ties in with the novel."

I know it's two years ago, but can you remember why you wrote this? I don't recall the chapter numbers tying in with the novel. I just assumed it was a marketing gimmick, employed to get people talking about the book: "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - isn't that the book with prime chapter numbers?"


message 8: by Joe (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe I could be mistaken, but I think it had something to do with math and numbers calming the kid down. That he would count prime numbers in his head when things go too intense for him.


Kristine Christopher loved primary numbers so he decided to number his chapters as such.


Jaime Joe, good review and good points of view. The only thing I will argue slightly (although I understand why you may have felt such a way) was about the book turning into a family melodrama. Yes, I agree, it did but I think it spoke wonders as to how hard it is to parent (mother) a child with autism and how hard it is to have your child not speak to you (father). It is a very difficult and real thing.


message 11: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam Seems pointless reviewing a book one star based on expectations (which were illfounded) - not sure how this informs anyone?


message 12: by Fill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Fill Corey It seems unfortunate to base your dislike of a book not on its own faults & merits, but on its failure to match your prior expectations & the descriptions of others. If it turned out to be "a highly readable family melodrama" for you, then so be it.


message 13: by Joe (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe Adam wrote: "Seems pointless reviewing a book one star based on expectations (which were illfounded) - not sure how this informs anyone?"

Thanks for your opinion. Likewise, my review is my opinion. What may seem pointless to you could potentially be helpful to someone else. It's all arbitrary.

I disagree that my expectations were "illfounded". In my opinion (key words: my opinion), the book was marketed in a manner that did not correspond with the actual content of the novel.

Therein in lies my disappointment. Not to mention that I just did not like the book.


message 14: by Joe (last edited Nov 26, 2013 10:52AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe Fill wrote: "It seems unfortunate to base your dislike of a book not on its own faults & merits, but on its failure to match your prior expectations& the descriptions of others.

Marketing is a very powerful tool. Like I mentioned, it was like reading a restaurant menu's description of lasgna, but I got spaghetti instead.

I don't feel bad or wrong for basing a part of my review on the overall disappointment of how the book was marketed. I would not have bought it (and promptly resold it) if it wasn't pushed as a murder mystery.

Fill wrote: "If it turned out to be "a highly readable family melodrama" for you, then so be it."

Exactly. So be it. I don't understand why that upsets you so (if I'm projecting that emotion onto you I apologize although it does come off as such).

It's just my opinion, and I respect your right to disagree. I wrote a review based upon my opinion which in the grand scheme of things means absolutely nothing.

Plus, I didn't like the novel overall.


Sheila agreed.


Thomas Fennell I totally understand where you are coming from. I wouldn't in any shape or form call this a mystery novel either.
Lets restart!
We are in a book club and we are about to read the new, avant-garde, Bildungsroman by Mark Haddon. Instead of deciphering why this is called a mystery and why we are reading this, we are going to discuss the various themes like his struggle for independence and the subjectivity of not only him but the people around him.
The point I'm trying to make out of our hypothetical book club is that perhaps you mistook the novel for something it wasn't. Just think about it and if you have the same opinion, you are entitled to it.
I found this to be a great novel and really enjoyed it.


message 17: by Joe (last edited Dec 09, 2014 12:40PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe Thomas wrote: "I totally understand where you are coming from. I wouldn't in any shape or form call this a mystery novel either. Lets restart! ..."

Thanks Thomas for your comment. It's been over 6 years since I read this and I still stand by what I wrote. I don't feel I mistook the novel for something it wasn't. In fact, it's the opposite – the novel was marketed as something it wasn't which, in this case, is a mystery.

I do find it curious that so many reacted unfavorably to my disappointment that the novel wasn't a mystery, and I appreciate the valiant efforts some have made to change my mind. Perhaps, in retrospect, I should not have made that the prime focus of my review. In any case, I simply did not like the novel. The fact that it was not a mystery added fuel to the fire.

That's just my opinion, nothing more, and I certianly don't expect everyone to agree with me.


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