The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Silver Blaze”:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

haddon My daughter found a copy of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Vintage, 2004) at a local BOOKSALE outlet and I bought it because she liked it. I very seldom look at novels, but I’m glad that I read this book.

This “murder mystery novel” is quite unusual in that (a) it starts at chapter 2, (b) it has footnotes, drawings, and an appendix consisting of a proof of a mathematical theorem, and (c) the murderer is revealed halfway through the novel.

So I think it is not a “real” murder mystery novel (hence the scare quotes in the previous paragraph), and, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, that is the curious incident.

Although the story is told from the viewpoint of a 15-year-old boy, I found the observations on language (literal and figurative), writing (how to write detective fiction), the nature of the mind (how a normal person’s way of thinking differs from that of an autistic person, or of an animal, or of a computer), and mathematics very deep. I particularly like how a wide variety of mathematics is presented (probability, chaos, games, tessellations).

A quote from Wikipedia mentions that the book “was published simultaneously in separate editions for adults and children.” It seems that my copy has a few differences from the version that Wikipedia refers to. For example, Wikipedia mentions that the lead character is given a Cocker Spaniel puppy at the end, but in my copy of the book, the puppy is a Golden Retriever.

I found the ending quite sad, although most people would probably consider it a happy ending.


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