A murder has been committed.
The murder weapon? A garden fork.
The victim? Wellington, who just happens to be a dog.
The detective? Boone. Christopher Boone.
Add all these up and what do you get? A very curious incident about a dog in the nighttime!
The book, by Mark Haddon, is a beautiful story about a 15 year old boy, Christopher, who’s afflicted by Asperger’s Syndrome. He loves Math and Science, he goes to a school for special children like him and has a pet rat, Toby. As with most children who are autistic, Christopher finds it difficult to understand human relationships, behaviors and gestures. His teacher even draws him smileys to explain the various emotions that people feel when their faces are in certain way!
The story starts with the ‘murder’ of Mrs.Shears’ dog, Wellington. Christopher likes the dog and so, takes it upon himself to find the murderer and bring him to justice. How he manages to do it, overcoming his own fears and inhibitions in the process, forms the rest of the plot.
The novel is in a first person narrative of Christopher, a book he is writing about solving the mystery of the murdered dog. He’s a fan of Sherlock Holmes, so no two guesses on why he wants to write a book! His teacher at school, Siobhan, encourages him to keep a journal of his findings and gives him tips to keep the ‘book’ interesting.
This little booklet of a book appealed to me instantly owing, mainly, to its simplicity and clarity. The ideas and thoughts are presented from the point of view of a 15 year old autistic child. The sheer pleasure of reading uncomplicated sentences and descriptions, the inherent humor in those child-like observations made by Christopher – a good break from the usual ‘professional’ novels! (And for someone who’s been on Paulo Coelho for the last 2 weeks, it’s a welcome break, indeed!).
“This is a murder mystery novel.
Siobhan said that I should write something I would want to read myself. Mostly I read books about science and maths. I do not like proper novels. In proper novels people say things like, ‘I am veined with iron, with silver and with streaks of common mud. I cannot contract into the firm fist which those clench who do not depend on stimulus’1 . What does this mean? I do not know. Nor does Father. Nor do Siobhan or Mr Jeavons. I have asked them.
Siobhan has long blonde hair and wears glasses which are made of green plastic. And Mr Jeavons smells of soap and wears brown shoes that have approximately 60 tiny circular holes in each of them.
But I do like murder mystery novels. So I am writing a murder mystery novel.
In a murder mystery novel someone has to work out who the murderer is and then catch them. It is a puzzle. If it is a good puzzle you can sometimes work out the answer before the end of the book.”
The narration style is just one aspect that catches your attention. What touched me immensely was Christopher Boone himself. He sees the world from a very logical perspective, where everything is there for a reason and all things have their place and a change in that order unnerves him, makes him uncomfortable and scared. Much like how we would feel when we are put in situations beyond our control, or in short, when changes happen. And the way Christopher overcomes his inhibitions just so he can solve the murder (he talks to ‘straingers’ to find clues, he takes a train ride by himself), he just becomes the hero!
What’s even more heart-rending in the portrayal of Christopher is his inability to sugar-coat life and its realities, owing to his medical condition. He cannot think about ‘what if’ situations, he cannot shut out the undesirables and dwell upon the feel-goods – the tricks that a normal person’s mind plays to keep one out of misery. It’s all at once liberating and constricting. And that’s a pretty powerful emotion to have when reading a book.
As always, like with most topics on this planet, I can go on and on! But I refrain. Pick up the book if you see it in your bookstore, you will not regret knowing Christopher.