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Literature / The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) is a novel by Mark Haddon. It is about young Christopher John Francis Boone, who knows all the countries of the world and their capital cities and all the prime numbers up to 7,057, but has almost no comprehension of human emotion.

One late night (exactly 7 minutes after midnight), he finds his neighbour's dog killed by a garden fork, leading him into an investigation that becomes about more than just a dead dog, but about the real world told through the eyes of a 15-year-old with severe autism, right down to the unnecessary details.

Adapted into a play which premiered in London in 2012 and debuted on Broadway in 2014. Similar to the book, which Christopher himself has written in-universe as a Mystery Writer Detective, he is also the author of his own play.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time contains examples of:

  • Accidental Passenger: When Christopher catches the train to London, a policeman who had spoken to him earlier suddenly boards the train to try to persuade him not to travel. Unfortunately, the train doors then close, and the policeman is forced to travel to the next stop. Meanwhile, Christopher hides in the train, and makes it to London.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The play invokes and justifies this, as Siobhan created the play based on Christopher's notebook chronicling his investigation, and she serves as a bridge to explain Christopher's thought process. Several people represent the multiple side characters like the policemen or Mrs. Shears, Judy and Christopher move back to Swindon so he can take his A levels, and Mr. Shears at first appears reasonable about Christopher staying with them.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the play, Mr. Shears at first makes an effort to welcome Christopher into his life before getting abusive and calling him spoiled, which leads to Judy kicking Mr. Shears out of their flat.
  • Adults Are Useless: Or just plain cruel, but some are in fact quite helpful, for example the two at the subway who help him when he rests on the train tracks, the elderly neighbor who tries to comfort him, his teacher for being not just his teacher but also a mentor, and his parents at times.
  • Agent Scully: Personality-wise, Christopher fits this; he is fairly contemptuous of people who believe in the supernatural—including Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who joined a Spiritualist society so he could try to communicate with his dead son.
  • Alone with the Psycho: An unusual example, but this technically applies to the moment when Christopher's father catches him reading his still-living mother's letters, and due to having betrayed Christopher's trust, is forced to confess that he murdered Wellington.note 
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In-universe. To most people in the town and the law, killing Wellington would be a pretty disgusting Kick the Dog (no pun intended) moment but not quite the Moral Event Horizon; in fact, Judy tells Christopher that unless Mrs. Shears presses charges, his father won't go to jail. To Christopher, it is as serious as killing a human being and his father is a murderer and Christopher must escape from the house because his father could kill anyone, including him.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Christopher, who very much idolises the Great Detective Sherlock Holmes.
  • Beige Prose: Christopher writes in a rather stilted and matter-of-fact tone. His sentences follow a strict "this happened, and that happened" pattern. Most of his paragraphs begin with "And" or "Then". He usually only uses long sentences when digressing from the plot to discuss scientific concepts or his personal interests (or his autism).
  • Blind Without 'Em: Only mentioned in passing but Siobhan, the narrator Christopher's favourite teacher, wears glasses thick enough to induce headaches when 20/20 people wear them. Also counts as an example of Glasses Curiosity.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Judy and Ed's massive argument regarding Christopher when Ed catches up to him in London:
    • Judy is furious that Ed told Christopher she was dead and decided to just write her out of his life completely.
    • Ed is furious that Judy left him and Christopher to pursue an affair with Mr. Shears, and points out that writing letters to Christopher is no good because it can't compare to actually being there for Christopher and looking after him.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Christopher says his favorite subjects are mathematics, physics and mathematical physics.
  • Brooklyn Rage: The slightly watered-down London version. Several of the people Christopher meets in London sound particularly angry or at least high-strung—quite a few of them are given to dropping Cluster F-Bombs and Precision F-Strikes—although that might just be the typical rush-hour rudeness of any major metropolis. Plus, none of them would be expected to know how to deal with his behavioural issues.
  • Brown Note: Christopher hates the colours yellow and brown, especially yellow. He also despises loud noises, which cause him to scream and cover his ears.
  • Bumbling Dad: Christopher's dad isn't always the best father, but he at least tries to own up to his mistakes and it's clear he loves his son very much.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Christopher doesn't understand humour very well because he is so Literal-Minded.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Christopher refuses to outright lie, ever (though over the course of the story he becomes more comfortable telling white lies).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Christopher. Justified because of his autism.
  • Coming of Age Story: A fairly unconventional one, sure, but Christopher does do quite a bit of growing up—most notably by going to London by himself, overcoming his fears of the very unfamiliar and unpredictable outside world, and it's all the more amazing considering his autistic condition. He matter-of-factly but proudly ends his book by reiterating his dream to go to university and become a scientist:
    Christopher: And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington?, and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.
  • Conversational Troping: Christopher often muses about what we would recognize as tropes to himself, and why they're unrealistic. In one chapter he notes how silly the idea of Humanoid Aliens is, and instead thinks they would be more likely to be totally different. In another, he notices some people dressed as Horny Vikings and comments on how anachronistic their clothing is.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Christopher claims to have no sense of humour but is given to moments of dry, sardonic wit, an example being: "I think dogs are more interesting than some people. Steve, who goes to my school for instance, needs help to eat his food and could not even fetch a stick. Siobhan tells me not to say this to Steve's mother."
  • Deconstruction: Of the Kid Detective genre of books. It shows what kind of person would be naive enough to go out of their way to search for clues about a 'murder' in a world dictated by reality, all for the sake of wanting to being a detective. In fact, the 'investigation' comes to a screeching halt less than halfway through the story because clues don't just fall into your lap.
  • Defective Detective: Christopher, naturally, given his autism (or at least a similar disorder).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When adults don't understand what he's saying, Christopher tends to just repeat himself word for word.
  • Direct Line to the Author: In-universe, Christopher is the author of the book.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: To some, Christopher's conviction that his father should go to jail for killing the dog, Wellington seems like this, but for Christopher himself, who understands and empathizes with dogs more than human beings, this is entirely justified. note 
    • Leaving your autistic son because you decide you can't cope with his idiosyncracies also seems somewhat over the top, though it wasn't really meant as retribution.
    • Turned out to be what the crime was about, Christopher's dad was still suffering that his wife ran with another man, leaving him alone to raise their autistic son, when the neighbour, whose husband ran off with his wife, turned down his desire to start a family again he killed Wellington because the woman seemed to care more about the dog than him and his son.
  • Dissonant Serenity: While some real autistics tune out or even blackout when overloaded or having a meltdown/shutdown, Christopher calmly narrates his. Possibly averted in that he is writing a book, and may be describing what others have told him about what he does.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Christopher is very strong and doesn't realise he has to be careful at times.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Roger Shears is hardly a shining example of family values, what with the whole "leaving his wife to run off with a married woman" thing, but even he seems pretty disgusted when he hears what happened to Wellington. Especially when he learns who did the deed.
  • Exact Words: When Christopher's father admonishes him to drop the investigation into Wellington's murder, Christopher carefully picks apart his father's words and deduces that, literally speaking, Ed has not expressly forbidden him from talking to his neighbour Mrs Alexander, although Christopher clearly isn't supposed to be asking her about the murder. His father even points out he still disobeyed, as he did also say to stop interrogating people (although he used a more colorful version but so did he when he asked him to stop "asking about who killed that bloody dog") which makes Christopher so scared he has problem remembering what happened.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Christopher ponders this trope at one point and dismisses it, saying that humans aren't the pinnacle of evolution but just one successful species out of many that have existed, and will probably go extinct in the future and be replaced by something else.
  • Footnote Fever: In-universe. Nearly every other chapter in Christopher's journal is some digression about scientific or mathematical facts, or notes on his mental condition and personal interests, including generous helpings of explanatory footnotes. In the play, one of these footnotes is presented after the curtain call.
  • Foreshadowing: Ed tells Christopher to stop investigating the mystery of who killed Wellington, and not to mention Mr. Shears's name in his house, citing him as evil. Why? Because Ed is the one who killed Wellington, and Judy left Ed to pursue an affair with Mr. Shears, and Ed doesn't want Christopher to find out about either event. Of course, he eventually does.
  • Freak Out: Christopher gets overwhelmed easily by loud noises, physical contact and bright lights.
  • Genre Savvy: Christopher often refers to Detective Fiction tropes as a model for how he should investigate the crime.
  • Good with Numbers: By and large, Christopher's saving grace. So much so that:
    • He discusses several math problems in his book, including the Monty Hall problem;
    • People ask him challenging mathematical operations for fun (which must seem terribly easy to him); and
    • He even includes the proof of his favourite problem on his A-level exams in an appendix to the book he's writing.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Christopher's mother flat-out admits this in a letter to him. She threw tantrums when he refused to eat food and often hit him simply because she didn't know how to handle his behavioural quirks.
    • Christopher's dad can get angry a lot.
  • Hard on Soft Science: Despite Christopher having almost No Sense of Humour, he does enjoy one joke about inductive reasoning, because it depicts a mathematician showing up as an economist, and as he puts it, "economists aren't real scientists".
  • Hates Being Touched: Christopher hates it so much that he reacts violently whenever anyone touches him, even his own parents. Instead of hugging him, they touch their fingertips to his when they want to show affection.
  • Heroic BSoD: Christopher goes nearly catatonic when he finds out his father was the one who killed Wellington, and hid from him that his mother is not dead but merely abandoned them.
  • Hyper-Awareness: The reason Christopher says he doesn't like new places or people: he has no filters and can't help but notice every little detail about the environment around him, down to the smell of a policeman's aftershave and the vents in his teacher's shoes. It doesn't help that he has a self-described Photographic Memory.
  • Hypocrite: Or at least inconsistent in his statements. Christopher frequently derides normal people for being illogical, although much of what he does is equally illogical. For example, he feels that it is stupid that some people randomly have bad days. He has a much more logical reason for deciding a day is bad - seeing three yellow cars on the way to school. He maintains a strong disdain for supernatural tales, which he considers a whole big pack of lies—but he enjoys science fiction and mystery novels, which also consist of fictional scenarios that happen to involve science in them. (And even they can't be counted on to be accurate either, largely due to Rule of Cool and Science Marches On.)
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Ed does this a couple of times, most prominently after he has a fight with Christopher over the latter disobeying him and keeping up the Wellington investigation.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Because Ed is hiding letters from his son.
  • Idiot Savant: Christopher is a classic example of the "autistic savant" trope: brilliant at math, poor at communicating, a Creature of Habit.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Christopher.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The whole novel is self-referential; Siobhan encourages Christopher to write down his experiences in a book—i.e., what the reader is currently reading. He even writes down episodes about having to find earlier drafts of his yet-unfinished book because his father confiscated it from him.
  • It's All About Me: Christopher, his mother and Mr and Mrs. Shears (downplayed in that Mrs. Shears just doesn't want to help Christopher to the point of being his mom, and in Christopher's own case one can't really blame him).
  • Jerkass: Mr. Shears cheats on his wife with a married woman and then breaks up with said married woman days after her son arrives. His wife is no better, being highly jealous and confrontational. Judy and Ed are just as bad; Ed has serious anger issues and killed Wellington, and Judy abandoned both her husband and her son., but to a fault, they utmost do care about their son and try to reconcile with him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Christopher, although you can't really blame him. Also, Christopher's parents.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • It outrages Christopher that after he finds out that his father killed Wellington, he won't even get punished for it because the police will only do it if Mrs. Shears presses charges. Dogs tend to be innocent where the affairs of humans are involved, and that Wellington had nothing to do with Ed and Judy's maternal problems or the tribulations of raising an autistic child. (Though Christopher's father, during The Reveal, admits that it was a purely impulsive action happening at the height of his anger and frustration, and he didn't actually blame Wellington)
    • Judy calls out Ed for telling Christopher she was dead, but he counteracts that writing letters is no substitute for parental care.
  • Kid Detective: What Christopher wishes to become. (Besides becoming an astronaut.)
  • Known by the Postal Address: When Christopher is making an epic journey to his mother's house in London, he refers to it by the full address including the postcode every time he mentions it, which is justified because of his Asperger's syndrome.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Judy left Christopher and Ed to pursue her affair with Mr. Shears. When Christopher shows up years later, Mr. Shears leaves Judy.
  • Lies to Children: So, Ed, how's that whole pretending-your-wife-is-dead thing working out for your kid, eh?
  • Literal-Minded: The reason Christopher doesn't understand metaphors and therefore considers them lies. For example: the common saying "the apple of one's eye" baffles him because he can't see how appreciating someone has anything to do with having an apple literally stuck in one's eye (which to him probably counts as an Eye Scream).
  • Literary Allusion Title: Silver Blaze, a Sherlock Holmes mystery (full quote at Fair-Play Whodunnit).
  • Long List: Christopher makes various lists, such as some of his behavioural problems; and when he is arrested, he lists everything in his pockets, down to the values of the individual coins.
  • Long Title: Possibly reflecting Christopher's way of speaking.
  • Loophole Abuse: Christopher abhors lies and gives great priority order, truth and promises, accentuated by his Literal-Minded nature. He will never lie and avoid being untrue even on a speculative level, and if he promises to do something he will do it. However, he is not above telling "white lies" (that is, half truths that are entirely factual but omit facts) when he knows someone will react badly to the truth - reasoning that most statements are white lies from a literal standpoint - and he repeatedly finds loopholes in the promises he makes to pursue other things he wants to do. Part of it is him not regarding the spirit of promises as much as the exact order, but there are also instances where he does understand the spirit but persists as an acts of determination.
  • Mathematician's Answer: One of the few jokes Christopher finds funny is based on this concept. Three academics riding a train together in Scotland remark upon a brown cow they see through the window:
    And the economist says, “Look, the cows in Scotland are brown.”
    And the logician says, “No. There are cows in Scotland of which one at least is brown.”
    And the mathematician says, “No. There is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown.”
    And it is funny because economists are not real scientists, and because logicians think more clearly, but mathematicians are best.
  • The Mentor: Siobhan, who is very supportive of Christopher and his plan to write a book.
    • Before her, Julie, who demonstrates how difficult it will be for Christopher to understand other people's minds.
  • Metaphorically True: Christopher's father on Christopher's mother:
    Father: She has a problem ... a problem with her heart.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Sort of; namely, Murder of the dog Wellington → "Fraud", in the form of Ed lying to Christopher that Judy died, by hiding her letters to him. The former's only indirectly related to the latter, however, from Christopher's point of view, killing a dog is in no way a minor crime.
  • Missing Mom: Christopher is raised by his father because his mother has died. Or so he's been told. She is actually living elsewhere.
  • Monty Hall Problem: Christopher explains the Monty Hall problem to the reader, using a tree diagram to illustrate all the different ways it can play out and the odds of each possible outcome.
    So if you change, 2 times out of 3 you get a car. And if you stick, you only get a car 1 time out of 3.
    And this shows that intuition can sometimes get things wrong. And intuition is what people use in life to make decisions. But logic can help you work out the right answer.
    It also shows that Mr. Jeavons was wrong and numbers are sometimes very complicated and not very straightforward at all. And that is why I like The Monty Hall Problem.
  • Mockstery Tale: The book starts with the protagonist's discovery of a dog speared with a garden fork. The novel appears to take the direction of an amateur sleuth trying to unravel the mystery, but soon devolves into said sleuth talking about his own life, eventually leading to a revelation that spurs him to leave the city in search of his mother.
  • Must Make Amends: Both of Christopher's parents, for varying reasons. Ed lied about his wife's death and killed an innocent dog that Christopher liked, all because he was angry at the dog's owner and his life situation, and Judy left her son to pursue an affair and thought letters were a form of maternal care. By the end of the book Ed has bought a new puppy for Christopher, and Judy has taken in Christopher after Mr. Shears leaves her.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ed after Christopher successfully makes it to his mother's house, and all his actions come back to haunt him. Also much earlier when he slaps Christopher after his son hit him.
  • Mystery Writer Detective: Christopher is writing his book as he works on the mystery of who killed Wellington.
  • Nerd Glasses: Christopher mentions wearing glasses a few times. He rarely seems to wear them, though—the only major mention of them is at the start of the novel, where he muses about possibly using them to start a solar fire à la Lord of the Flies and escape from the holding cell at the police station. (Which would only work if he was farsighted, which Lord of the Flies infamously got wrong.)
    • Christopher also mentions that Siobhan wears green plastic glasses with very thick lenses that give others headaches.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Anti-Villain in this case: Ed confiscating Christopher's notebook of his investigation leads to Chris finding his mother's letters while searching for his book, which in turn leads to him learning that his mother is alive and that Ed lied about her death. Ed then makes matters worse by confessing that he killed Wellington, which is The Last Straw for Christopher, who runs away to find his mother.
  • The '90s: The story, if you pay attention, is actually set around 1997-98, since Christopher gives his exact age as 15, and then later writes about an event in 1992, when he was nine. Plus, his supposedly-dead mother's letters are postmarked beginning in 1996, a little after when she left him and Ed (not to mention that if it were set in The Present Day — even at the time the book was actually published, in 2003 — Christopher would much likelier be using email at least, and his mother might've emailed him instead — which would also make it much more difficult for his father to hide the evidence from him).
  • No Antagonist: The story has no defined bad guy. Ed tries to paint Mr. Shears as one because Judy left Ed after starting an affair with Mr. Shears, and Mr. Shears doesn't want Christopher around when he decides he wants to live with Judy. Christopher views his father as one when Ed confesses that he killed Wellington.
  • No Name Given: Subverted with Christopher's parents. We don't find out the names of his father or mother until well into the book (Ed and Judy). In universe too, when people ask him who his parents are (expecting a name) he only answers "Mother" or "Father."
  • No Social Skills: Christopher. To the point he threatens the people that saved him because they touched him and he punches a policeman for the same reason.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Christopher knows he was named after the Gentle Giant saint who purportedly carried the young Jesus across a river (which is literally what "Christopher" means: it's the Greek for "Christ's bearer"—but that means it was obviously not the said saint's name before he carried Jesus, if that even really happened), and that his parents picked the name for its general association with kindness and helpfulness, but Christopher himself doesn't feel his name describes him at all, at least in that "kind and helpful" isn't quite what come to mind when he is spoken of.
  • Not Using the A Word: Christopher is never identified as being anywhere on the autistic spectrum in the book. Haddon himself maintains that he wrote the character as an "outsider" more than anything else.
  • Number Obsession: Christopher knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057. He is so obsessed with maths, he even uses prime numbers instead of conventional chapter numbers.
  • Obsessively Organized: Christopher gets very upset when anything in his house is changed and goes as far as measuring where the furniture is so he can put it back in the right places after his mother vacuums. He likes Mrs. Shears because she's very neat and organizes everything in the kitchen.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ed, upon realising that Christopher has read the letters from his mother and knows she is still alive.
  • Outgrowing the Childish Name: Inverted; Christopher used to refer to his parents as Mummy and Daddy, but as a teenager he calls them Mother and Father.
  • Parents as People: To the point where it might as well be called "parents as people, the book". Christopher's father tries really hard to raise his son despite his disorder not making it easy on top of having his wife leaving with another man and he is the dutiful one.
  • Pet the Dog: Ed takes Christopher to the zoo on the weekend to apologize for hitting him in anger. (No pun intended to the actual dogs in the story.)
    • Involves an actual dog. After Christopher's pet rat Toby dies, Ed, desperately wanting to make things up to Christopher after everything that has happened, gets him a present, a Golden Retriever puppy, and says that Christopher can name him..
  • Photographic Memory: Or, more precisely, Cinematographic Memory — Christopher compares his memory to a video reel and frequently uses video similes (not metaphors) to illustrate his memory functions. If he blacks out at one point, he speaks of having his memory-tape erased; if he tries to recall something, he simply "rewinds" or "searches" through his mental archives to find relevant information (including how to respond to people having Convulsive Seizures). He also speaks of playing and pausing previous memories like video clips in his head. Most importantly, due to his inability to filter sensory information normally, he can recall practically every visual detail of any given scene, even going years back. When, for instance, Christopher revisits a farmland scene with a few cows, he remembers the number of cows, their skin patterns, the shape of the field, the details of a nearby village, the different kinds of litter at his feet, and so on.
  • Picky Eater: Christopher, a trait of his ASD. He refuses to eat any food that has touched a different kind of food on his plate, and keeps a bottle of food colouring in the kitchen for yellow foods (his least favorite colour).
  • Police Are Useless: And how. Averted in the play, where a policeman helps Christopher buy a ticket to London before learning he's a runaway.
  • Posthumous Character: Subverted with Christopher's mother. Played straight with Wellington.
  • Properly Paranoid: Christopher says that Wellington's killer must have either wanted to hurt the dog or hurt Mrs. Shears, and according to statistics someone who kills animals will start on people next. While Ed doesn't kill anyone else after hurting Wellington, Christopher is right on suspecting that Ed did it to hurt Mrs. Shears, and is horrified when he learns. The police also keep Ed from seeing Christopher in London when the latter makes it to his mother's place after they learn what happened.
  • Punch a Wall: Ed punches a hole in a fence when Christopher won't talk to him.
  • Reading Your Rights: Christopher gets this from the policeman at the beginning, which he recognizes as standard procedure (and which he actually finds comforting, despite the fact that he just pissed off said policeman by assaulting him).
  • Replacement Goldfish: As part of his Must Make Amends, Ed buys a new puppy for Christopher, as a peace offering after revealing he killed Wellington. Although technically the dog is also meant to replace Toby, Christopher's pet rat, who died of old age (rats only live to around two to three years).
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Christopher, as a consequence of his autism. He takes sarcasm from others at face value, particularly when he can't recognise the emotions accompanying it (usually anger or irritation). Take for instance his conversation with an irritable store clerk when buying a map of London:
    Christopher: [pointing to the map] Is that the A-to-Z?
    Shop Clerk: No, it's a sodding crocodile.
    [Christopher thinks, well, duh, it's not a crocodile.]
    Christopher: Is that the A-to-Z?
    Shop Clerk: Yes, it's the A-to-Z.
  • Schedule Fanatic: Christopher. He plans his daily routine down to the minute and gets upset when he isn't sure what time it is.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The main reason why Christopher's mother left him is that she felt unable to cope with an autistic child.
  • Sensory Overload: Christopher is overwhelmed by sensory overload in The London Underground: the noises, the advertisements, and especially the people.
  • Shout-Out: Christopher is a big fan of Science Fiction and mentions several franchises he likes, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Blade Runner. He also talks about Sherlock Holmes at length, who is his chief inspiration as a Kid Detective, in fact the title is a line from "Silver Blaze" (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes).
    • Although he claims to hate what he terms "proper novels" — i.e., any other fiction besides sci-fi and murder mysteries — because "proper novels" tell stories that never happened, making them technically lies. He especially disdains supernatural fiction, even though one could argue that they are just as speculative as sci-fi.
    • Christopher also plays a lot of Minesweeper, sometimes for hours on end.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot:
    • Christopher's father, to the point where some of his lines resemble a Cluster F-Bomb.
    • Also applies for many of the people who talk to him, particularly in London.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass When in the holding cell at the police station (for assaulting a cop because he was overstimulated by being touched), Christopher mulls possibly using his glasses to start a solar fire à la Lord of the Flies (which, again, got wrong because it only works for farsighted glasses, so Chris' glasses would have to be farsighted too) and escape by being removed from the cell.
  • Starfish Aliens: Discussed when Christopher sees a giant rain cloud that he muses could very well be an alien spaceship—since in Real Life there's no reason they have to look humanoid or even like recognisable robots or animals, the way they're depicted in most sci-fi media.
  • The Stinger: In the play, Christopher wanted to explain his favourite mathematical equation. Siobhan tells him to explain after the play if people are interested. In the book, this is explained in an appendix.
  • Subways Suck: Christopher is overwhelmed by sensory overload in The London Underground: the noises, the advertisements, and especially the people. At one point he goes down onto the Underground tracks to rescue his rat Toby even as the train is bearing down on them both.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • At the beginning, a policeman grabs Christopher by the arm and Christopher (due to how he Hates Being Touched) hits him, and he gets promptly arrested for assault. He gets a warning when the police sergeant finds out that he has a disability, and Christopher next time warns a policeman at the train station to not touch him because he doesn't want to get arrested again.
    • When Christopher finds out that Ed killed Wellington, he is terrified because he feels he can't trust his father any more because of how he lied about not only that but the fact that he told Christopher his mother was dead, which she wasn't.
    • When Judy finds out that Ed told Christopher she was dead, she is furious and treats him to a What the Hell, Hero?. Also works the other way, as Ed tells Judy that writing letters to Christopher is no substitute for actually looking after him after she walked out on them both.
    • Christopher also believes that Wellington's killer should go to jail. It turns out that, thanks to the law, his father will only get punished if Mrs. Shears presses charges, and she would rather not do so. Killing a person would mean jail time, but a dog matters less.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Christopher states how he feels not with words, but with simple drawings of faces.
    I got a grade A in my maths which was the highest grade, which made me feel (smiling face).
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Christopher loves strawberry milkshakes and mentions them several times in the book. He's also fond of the Indian food Gobi Aloo Saag, though as it is yellow he has to put red food coloring in it before eating. (One wonders how he tried it in the first place… possibly his parents surprised him by feeding it to him with his eyes shut?)
  • Threatening Shark: Discussed by Christopher. He is absolutely terrified of sharks and remembers a time when he started screaming at the beach thinking his mother had been eaten by one (when in fact she was just swimming under the surface).
  • Tranquil Fury: Christopher cannot identify this in other people. When, for example, his father finds the book he's been working on, and realises he went out of his way to continue investigating Wellington's death, Christopher can't tell at first that his father is angry at him because Ed questions him about this in a low, even tone.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Christopher does this when he is upset or overwhelmed.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The chapter numbers are all prime numbers, which Christopher has a love for.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Despite his Photographic Memory. May be related to Innocent Inaccurate.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: From Christopher's own point of view, once he realises his mother's still alive from reading her letters. He obviously doesn't write about throwing up in his book, primarily because he was in the middle of a Heroic BSoD at the time and his memory blacked out—"like a bit of the tape had been erased," in his own words.
  • The West Country: Where Swindon is.
  • Wham Line: "I killed Wellington, Christopher."
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Christopher is a fan of detective novels. The difference is that he isn't living inside a detective novel.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Played for Drama. Christopher is aggrieved to find out that the person who killed Wellington won't go to jail because a dog doesn't matter as much in the eyes of the law as a person would; killing a dog intentionally is only a "misdemeanor," which killing a person intentionally would be "murder". It's hard not to see Christopher's perspective considering Wellington was innocent in the fight between Ed and Mrs. Shears.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Christopher once punched a girl who was bullying him so hard that he knocked her out and she had to be taken to hospital with concussion.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Christopher demonstrates how to find out which numbers are prime numbers, by presenting a table of numbers from one to 49 and removing all the numbers that are multiples of 2, 3, 4, and and so on. The result is a table of only prime numbers, with all composite (non-prime) numbers missing. However, the number 1 has also been removed. While 1 is not a prime number, this is not explained. The actual reason is that the number 1 has one positive divisor in itself, while all prime numbers have two. Somehow, Christopher knows that the definition of prime numbers excludes 1, yet his reasoning contradicts the fact.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Christopher hates breaking promises and when others lie to him, so he tries to keep all his promises and never lie. However, when his father makes him promise to stop investigating the murder of Wellington, Christopher breaks the promise down into its five component parts and continues the investigation by asking about unrelated but relevant things. When his dad finds out, he's not happy.