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Spotlight on: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Christopher Boone has just come upon his neighbor's dog, Wellington, murdered by a garden fork. Due to his fascination with Sherlock Holmes -- and after being accused of the crime himself -- he decides that the thing to do is to investigate the solution to the murder. One of his teachers, Siobhan, suggests it might be a good idea to chronicle the investigation in a book, and so Christopher begins writing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

This investigation is going to be more difficult than most, however, because Christopher has Asperger's Syndrome, a kind of mild autism, and he doesn't like to be touched, or overwhelmed by noise. To cope, he will sit in a corner and groan, tune a radio to static and hold it up to his ear, or solve highly difficult quadratic equations in his head. Seeing five red cars in a row on his bus trip to school indicates a very good day, while seeing four yellow cars in a row means it will be a black day. Brown is also a negative color due to its association with dirt and "poo."

First-time author Mark Haddon has achieved something only an experienced author usually even attempts: filtering an entire novel through the perceptions of a single flawed but fascinating character. These events in any other book would be merely interesting, but with Christopher telling them (in chapters indicated with prime numbers), they are nothing short of enthralling. I had a similar experience with Jonathan Lethem's fascinating look at crime through the mind of a Tourette's Syndrome sufferer, Motherless Brooklyn.

Jeff Woodman's performance on the unabridged recording of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time from Recorded Books is revelatory. Another actor could easily have descended into easy sentimentality or making Christopher sound utterly childish (he is somewhat childish, but that's all), but Woodman makes the character real. I was engaged in this audiobook like I have been by no other since audiobook "celebrity" (and my favorite reader) Frank Muller was injured and had to stop recording. He captures the tensions of a father who is almost completely unable to deal with his son's illness, and is doing his best to cope, even though he shows it in unexpected ways. And his different accents to represent the different regions of England where the story takes place are flawless.

As a whole experience, there is nothing to not recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon has created a character and a world that many will understand, most will appreciate, and all will enjoy.

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