Mstation Book Reviews
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Fri, 30 Jan 2009

Dog Murder and the Geek

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the
dog in the night-time, Vintage

Let us start by saying that we're using the word 'geek' in rather an affectionate sort of way. The outline of the story is this: a 15yo boy who has Asperger's Syndrome discovers a murdered dog (the pitchfork through his body was a clue) and decides to find out whodunnit.

But wait, there's more! The story is told by the boy from inside his world - likes rule-based systems such as maths and physics, hates to be touched, doesn't have a clue what people are about unless everything is carefully explained and he doesn't get physical clues such as people's expressions, at all. He is also very keen on Prime Numbers, and that's how the chapters are numbered. He also can't tell lies.

And so one gets a strikingly simple view of the world, endearing even if one didn't get the suspicion that this sort of reasoning - without fuzziness - is how we came to be in so many fixes at once. Admitting to almost unknowable complexity and making rational decisions on that basis is the way forward: certainly not binary-minded luddism - not if we care to live in heated houses anyway.

But in the context of the story and the storyteller this isn't likely to get under anyone's skin. Instead, perhaps they'll let their hidden geek out to play. And, to be fair, the boy shows he's alive to complexity but the religious references are, one suspects, the author's problem - in that assertions one way or another are unprovable.

The mystery of the dog is cleared up half way through but then we set off on an heartrending adventure which we won't talk about except to say that some people have more than their fair share of contact with adults who suck.

Is it really just a Whitbread award winning children's book? No, no, it's much more than that.

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