Mr. Haddon has deliberately created a story defined and limited by his hero's very logical, literal-minded point of view. The result is a minimalistic narrative – not unlike a Raymond Carver story in its refusal to speculate, impute motive or perform emotional embroidery … Christopher's detective work eventually takes him on a frightening trip to London, a trip that Mr. Haddon makes us experience from the boy's point of view as a harrowing adventure, as scary as anything in an action thriller. And it also leads to an unraveling of his own family's past … Christopher emerges as a wonderfully vivid individual. He never for a moment feels like a generic teenager or a composite portrait of someone with Asperger's syndrome.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is presented as a detective story. But it eschews most of the furnishings of high-literary enterprise as well as the conventions of genre, disorienting and reorienting the reader to devastating effect … Christopher tells us all we need to know about his condition without reference to medical terminology – just as well, since the term ‘autism’ encompasses a variety of symptoms and behavioral problems that are still baffling behavioral scientists … One of the subtle ironies of the book is that young Christopher is ultimately far more hard-boiled than any gumshoe in previous detective fiction...Christopher's skewed perspective and fierce logic make him a superb straight man, if not necessarily a stellar detective … The gulf between Christopher and his parents, between Christopher and the rest of us, remains immense and mysterious. And that gulf is ultimately the source of this novel's haunting impact.
Haddon has taken on a Herculean task: using the prism of autism, a condition in which, according to popular notion, a person cannot comprehend emotion. Yet through the smoke and mirrors of his character's oddly dispassionate view of the world around him, Haddon manages to rouse intense and devoted interest … Christopher lives in a world of facts and figures, cool decipherings of the complex and baffling world around him. Subtle gradations of emotion confuse him; straightforward logistics soothes him. … Although the book is character-driven, it also contains a rich plot. It is a murder mystery, a road atlas, a postmodern canvas of modern sensory overload, a coming-of-age journal and lastly a really affecting look at the grainy inconsistency of parental and romantic love and its failures.
Haddon's goal is to filter the confusion of adolescence and family betrayal through an autistic point of view. Or unfilter, as the case may be. ‘I see everything,’ Christopher explains, and The Curious Incident (presented as a firsthand account of his detective work, written under a teacher's supervision) imagines the frustrating paradox of an autistic person's world, where sensory intake is heightened but the capacity to process information cruelly diminished … The Curious Incident is a radical experiment in empathy—the mysterious mental state that it so snugly inhabits is one of interpersonal shutdown and emotional illiteracy, characterized precisely by the failure of empathy … The sadness of this fundamental disconnect never dissipates; through the domestic upheavals and tempered optimism of the conclusion, our hero keeps his distance because he has no other option, an unwitting hardass to the end.
Mark Haddon's superb first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a first-person account of an autistic savant … His burden is unceasing vigilance against a threatening world...People communicate with gestures and metaphorical language he can't fathom. They even lie. Dogs are easier to understand; they are unfailingly honest … Yet the unintentional ironies and out-of-the-mouths-of-babes bits of wisdom fairly leap off the page. For example, Christopher denies to a teacher that learning about his mother's affair makes him sad. Since she's no longer alive, he explains, ‘I would be feeling sad about something that isn't real.’ Haddon makes sure that the question of what's real becomes ever more baffling … Haddon's gentle humor reminds us that facts don't add up to a life, that we understand ourselves only through metaphor.
Haddon brings together elements from the diverse genres of coming-of-age novel, autobiography and, above all, detective fiction in an unusual and engaging mix … Connecting autism with detection turns out to be a brilliant device on which to hang a novel. In a way, Christopher's literal, just-the-facts approach to life is simply the hyperlogical extension of the methods of crime fiction and whodunits … The imaginative leap of writing a novel – the genre that began as an exercise in sentiment – without overt emotion is a daring one, and Haddon pulls it off beautifully. Christopher's story is full of paradoxes: naive yet knowing, detached but poignant, often wryly funny despite his absolute humorlessness.
An autistic savant who can list all the prime numbers up to 7,057, he’s not so good with emotion, and since the story he relates in Mark Haddon’s delightful first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, concerns the dissolution of his parents’ marriage and the precarious nature of the care he needs to survive, we have to read between his lines … In tracking down the truth about Wellington’s untimely death, Christopher discovers more than he bargained for...Haddon depicts his hero with expansive sympathy and an irresistible humor … All of this makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time feel light, but that’s deceiving. There are vast reservoirs of human suffering and courage beneath its sprightly, peculiar surface.
Like many autistics, Christopher's goal each day is to preserve order in his routine. So when he discovers that his neighbor's dog has been murdered with a garden fork, this unlikely hero who is initially blamed for the crime immediately sets out to uncover what exactly happened, just as his favorite literary hero, Sherlock Holmes, would … Told in Christopher's stiff, almost robotic voice, The Curious Incident depicts how investigating this petty crime forces our hero to participate in the world around him, a world whose chaos he's feared his entire life … [Haddon] has crafted a tale full of cheeky surprises and tender humor.