Book of the week: A mind for maths and murder

25th April 2003 at 01:00

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
By Mark Haddon
David Fickling Books pound;10.99

Graham Swift started it. Tell a story - any story - and along the way drop in as many 10-minute talks on tangential topics as you think the reader can take.

In his novel Waterland , we learned about the draining of the Fens, the life cycle of the eel and the growth of the brewing industry in East Anglia during the second half of the 19th century.

It's a fun and easy way to explore the world. No more ploughing through entire Dick Francis thrillers to learn about horse racing or civil aviation. It is the novel as lucky dip; Tess Of The d'Urbervilles incorporating the Boys' Book Of Amazing Facts . It is, in short, thoroughly post-modern.

You need a special sort of narrator to make it work, of course - someone who really might fly off at tangents. Swift used a distracted teacher, and Mark Haddon, in a bold move that will guarantee him many hand-wringing column inches in the Sunday papers, uses a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome.

This was a stroke of genius, as the advantages of having a naive, literal-minded boy in the driving seat are manifold. Particularly when the boy decides to play detective...

Read the full review in this week's TES

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