The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Why is this novel like a detective novel?

What does it have in common?

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The novel is set up as a detective story from the outset. Christopher wants to work out who killed Mrs. Shears’ dog, Wellington. He sets out to find out about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time but instead finds out much more about his own life and family. The title represents what Christopher hopes to find out but within the title itself is another world of mystery that is uncovered as we go through the novel.

This detective novel is multi-layered. Christopher believes he is in control of his narrative and of the investigation because he believes he is an outsider who will go ‘inside’ this story, investigate, and find out the truth. In actual fact, as Christopher starts to write and to find out more information, the narrative runs away with itself and it is no longer Christopher who is in control. As he documents his findings, we realize that in actual fact Christopher is not an outside to this investigation at all: the mystery lies in his own house. Christopher calls his novel a ‘murder mystery novel’ but he will not have known how poignant a description that is. Wellington’s murderer is of course Ed, his father, but Ed could also be accused of another murder: that of his mother. Although not really dead, Ed murdered Christopher’s mother when he lied and told his son that she had died. When we realize this, Ed’s explanation that she had ‘a problem with her heart’ becomes all the more unsettling.

This is not the only ‘detecting’ that goes on in the novel. At the outset, Christopher’s view of the world and his reaction to it may seem unusual. However, Christopher’s consistent logic and mathematical reason educate the reader, and as we read the novel we go on a journey and learn more and more about Christopher. By the end we empathize more with Christopher than we do with his parents, or Mr. Shears. We understand his impulses and there is security in his inability to tell a lie. As we have followed him on this journey of investigation, we have uncovered much more than just who killed Wellington: we have learned all about a very gifted boy who has Asperger's syndrome. This surely must alter what we usually take for granted about our own perspective on life.