July 07, 2003 12:00 PM

By Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old autistic youth, has many likes and dislikes. He hates brown and yellow. Physical contact repulses him even more. Math, however, makes him happy. He has memorized every prime number up to 7,057. Christopher’s goal for each day is to preserve order in his routine, so when he discovers that his neighbor’s dog has been murdered, he sets out to uncover what happened, just like his favorite literary hero, Sherlock Holmes.

Told in Christopher’s odd but likable voice, the novel depicts how investigating this petty crime leads the teenager to participate in the world around him, a world whose chaos he has feared his entire life. Haddon, who has worked with autistic children, is sometimes a stiff writer, but this unique book, a bestseller in England, is full of whimsical surprises and tender humor. It’s a window into the mind of a boy who is more like most kids than he seems. (Doubleday, $22.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Curiously sweet

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