The narrator describes how, at seven minutes after midnight, he sees a dog 'lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house.' He sees that it is lying on its side, and that it has a garden fork sticking out of it. He wonders who could have killed it.
The narrator introduces himself as Christopher John Francis Boone. He says he knows 'all the countries in the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7507.’ He describes how, when he met Siobhan eight years ago, she showed him a picture of a sad face. He describes how he understood the picture to mean sad and so told her to draw several faces so that when people spoke to him and he couldn't detect their mood, he could refer to his drawings for help. Siobhan laughs at him, and draws a picture of a puzzled face, telling him that he would make people feel weird if he did that. So he stops and says that if he doesn't know how to read people's moods in the future, he will simply ask them or walk away.
Christopher tells how he pulls the fork out of the dog who was leaking blood from the fork holes. He hugs the dog and appreciates how straight-forward dogs are: 'You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating.' Four minutes later, Mrs Shears runs towards Christopher and shouts 'What in fuck's name have you done to my dog?' Christopher narrates that he does not like people shouting at him because it makes him scared and because he worries that they are going to hit or touch him. He puts his hands over his ears and hunches into a ball on the cold wet grass.
This section begins: 'This is a murder mystery novel.' Christopher explains that Siobhan told him he should write something that he would want to read. She suggested that he starts the novel with something that grabs people's attention. That is why he starts with the dog, he explains. He says he also started with the dog because it was an incident that happened to him - he finds things that don't happen to him hard to imagine. Siobhan says he should write about a person and not a dog but Christopher says that he wanted to write about something real and that dogs were 'faithful and honest'.
It is very interesting that from the outset Christopher is interested in understanding peoples’ moods, and that the novel starts by him feeling comfortable with understanding a dog’s mood. Beginning with a dead dog tells us something about Christopher’s loneliness and inability to communicate with the outside world.
The novel is set up as a detective from the outset – a simple who-done-it. What it sets up is a premise for exploration and for investigation; for Christopher, it is an opportunity to find a concrete and definite answer to the mystery. It is mathematical in its structure and yet, as we are to learn, the puzzle is not as black and white as Christopher expects.
What the novel sets up is almost a child-like situation. Christopher sees this dog with holes in it – the way he describes it makes it seem much less than it is. It is described is as though we are looking at a comic book, so from the start the reader is distanced by the tone of the writing. We are viewing the world through unfamiliar eyes.
We are not sure when we read 'This is a murder mystery novel' if the sentence refers to the book we are reading or to the book that Christopher goes on to say he has been encouraged to write by Siobhan. We soon realize that they are one and the same and that this section states how he ended up writing the novel, which he is only 5 pages into writing!
Christopher footnotes the following quote: '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.' He uses this quote to explain that he does not generally like 'proper novels' because they contain sentences, like this one, that he does not understand. It is a quote from Virginia Woolf's The Waves. The quote seems to suggest that the person 'veined with iron, with silver and with streaks of common mud' has the potential to be decisive and strong (iron, silver) but is also base and cowardly (mud) which perhaps stops them from being able to act decisively and without doubt, which closely associates itself with Hamlet. It is therefore significant that this sentence is incomprehensible to Christopher (and note, also to his family).
The description of Siobhan is entirely physical: she 'has long blonde hair and wears glasses which are made of green plastic.' Christopher is very straight-forward and sees unusually. It is as though he sees each thing as if for the first time - as though he reassesses afresh each time he experiences something. It is like reading a book and reading the words, without reading subtext or creating atmosphere or imagining scenes. As he says of his book; 'it is a puzzle.' He decides to write about a dog because he doesn't have access to the subtleties and complexities of human emotion (as seen in 3 with the diagrams) and so he trust dogs because they are clear and honest.
Due to the narrator's authorial voice being very present in the text, Mark Haddon becomes Christopher John Francis Boone. We are drawn into the art of writing and so the dichotomy between maths and art is set up: what does it take to write a novel? A mathematical and logical sense of structure and an understanding of people's feelings. Yet Christopher claims he cannot fathom people's feelings. But he is so in touch with his own that it is all that we, as readers, need.