"If only you could lift a lid on the top of your head
and say, 'Look.' "
Families are dysfunctional. Most of the time things manage to hang together, but tug at them slightly and they start unraveling like wool from an old jumper.
Mark Haddon, in his sequel to The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night-Time, pulls at that thread by introducing a forthcoming marriage and a lesion on the hip of George Hall.
"He was dying of cancer. It was a horrible thought. But if he could just store it over there, in the 'Thoughts about Dying of Cancer' box, he might be OK."
It took me a while to get into the book, as Mark tells the story from the point of view of four of the family members, each taking their turns in their own stream of chapters; a little like Talking it Over by Julian Barnes.
Once I settled in though I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is also very funny:
"They could trace calls. At least they could in films. But in films you could make someone pass out by squeezing their shoulder."
"A couple of hours? Sarah wasn't very clued up about children and time measurement. Jacob was pretty much incapable of distinguishing between last week and the extinction of the dinosaurs."
George starts to go mad as Mark pulls at the lesion thread and as you read you do wonder how far Mark will go with it. George's greatest scenes happen in bathrooms and it is here that Mark reaches the brilliance of his first book. Because to be honest, good as this book is, it is not as good as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
However ... wait before you stone me ... it does sit as a good companion to his first book.
Dog gave insight into the disintegrating world of a child with autism.
Spot gives you insight into the unraveling world of, well you or me, or the people living next door. You have been warned.
Are you getting older?
Do you use bathrooms?
If you answer yes to these, and I'm interested if you don't, then you could end up being like George.
It's no good holding on. If you have got to go.
You are in the bathroom now aren't you?
Okay carry on reading but be careful ...
So in Dog we see Christopher hiding from the world:
"So I climbed onto the middle shelf and I pulled one of the cases across like a door so that I was shut in, and it was dark and there was no one in there with me and I couldn't hear people talking so I felt much calmer and it was nice."
And in Spot we see George hiding from his family:
"He lay down and rolled into the shallow drainage ditch where the grass dipped before going under the fence. His coat was green. If he lay still they might not find him."
Can't wait to see what Mark comes up with next. Whose head is he going to flip open next?
An array of covers from the book
from the UK, USA and Germany.
Mark Haddon lives in Oxford. Visit his web site at www.markhaddon.com.
Read an interview with Mark on A Spot of Bother.
Read an extract from A Spot of Bother.
Next Month: The Swap by by Antony Moore.