The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a mystery novel, a relatively new literary tradition that did not begin until the early nineteenth century. Mystery fiction was virtually unheard of before the 1800s because true police forces and criminal detective work did not exist until the Industrial Revolution, when crime-fighting forces were institutionalized due to the growing populations in cities. Arthur Conan Doyle’s introduction of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in 1887 with A Study in Scarlet is largely responsible for genre’s popularity, with subsequent pulp magazines, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, and Agatha Christie’s detective novels (including Murder on the Orient Express in 1934) contributing to the genre’s success at from the turn of the twentieth century onward.

Read about Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet.”

In keeping with the tradition of mystery novels, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time opens with the discovery of a gruesome murder, when Christopher finds Mrs. Shears’ poodle, Wellington, in her front yard with a garden fork stuck through its body. As the investigation continues, the novel is as much about Christopher’s unique condition and his life with his father as it is the murder of Wellington. The novel’s focus on Christopher follows the conventions of the mystery genre, as the central character of a murder mystery tends to be a detective. Furthermore, Christopher shares many qualities with archetypical, savant-like detective characters such as Sherlock Holmes, who is famously logical, intelligent, and observant, but often fails to connect with people and understand their emotions. However, Christopher differs from other detective characters in that he is not a professional detective, but a fifteen-year-old boy. Furthermore, the novel makes use of a more experimental structure than is standard of the mystery fiction tradition. The chapters, which are itemized by prime numbers, alternate between the plot of the investigation, and background on Christopher’s unique life, history, and tangential ideas.