1. “This is a murder mystery novel.”

Christopher, who opens Chapter 7 with this quote just after finding Wellington’s dead body, uses some basic conventions of murder mystery stories, but he also diverges from convention frequently, and both approaches giving us insight into his character. Christopher chooses to write his book as a murder mystery because he likes the genre, and his taste for murder mysteries stems from a fascination with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes. These stories, in particular The Hound of the Baskervilles, provide Christopher with a template for his story’s structure. Like many of these stories, Christopher’s story opens with a murder, then follows Christopher as he investigates the murder and uncovers a larger conspiracy—that conspiracy being the secrets he learns about his parents. Using this framework gives Christopher a way to organize his story, giving him a sense of order and control over his story, and by extension the events of his life, in the same way that timetables give him a sense of order and control over his time.

Moreover, Christopher admires and identifies with the character of Sherlock Holmes, and though he never openly acknowledges this motivation, telling his story as a murder mystery allows him to cast himself in the role of Holmes. The traits Holmes uses to solve his mysteries, such as his strong observational skills, the ability to focus his attention entirely on one problem, and his talent for solving puzzles, Christopher sees as his own strongest traits. Christopher, who recognizes that his condition leaves him with distinct weaknesses, notably his inability to imagine what other people are thinking, looks for ways to emphasize his strengths, and telling his story as a murder mystery allows him to assume the role of Holmes, providing him with a way to play up his strengths and downplay his weaknesses. This mindset, in addition to his solving Wellington’s murder and traveling to London by himself, helps Christopher to discover the self-confidence and new sense of independence we see in him at the end of the novel.

Christopher’s story ceases to follow the murder-mystery template most notably when he interjects his commentary on subjects, like math and physics, that seemingly don’t relate to the plot. These interjections often tell the reader about Christopher’s emotional state, even when he doesn’t talk about his feelings explicitly. For example, when Christopher hides out in the garden behind the house after his father admits to killing Wellington, Christopher seems to indirectly comment on his feelings toward his father by talking about the constellation Orion. Christopher implies that his father, who appears to be a loving caretaker but is actually a murderer and liar, is like Orion, which creates the outline of a hunter but is in reality just a series of stars billions of miles away. These digressions from the murder-mystery formula regularly follow chapters in which Christopher encounters a dramatic situation.