Sarah J. Harris’ The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder centres around Jasper Wishart, who faces more obstacles than your average amateur sleuth as he attempts to crack the mystery at the heart of this book. But then, Jasper’s no ordinary thirteen-year-old boy, thanks to the way in which he sees the world.
There are three things you need to know about Jasper.
1. He sees the world completely differently.
2. He can’t recognise faces – not even his own.
3. He is the only witness to the murder of his neighbour, Bee Larkham.
But uncovering the truth about that night will change his world forever…
One of the beauties of a good book is how it can put you inside the head of someone who experiences the world differently to you and this is exactly what Sarah J. Harris achieves here.
I’d heard of synaesthesia, a condition in which senses intermingle, but struggled to picture how it manifests itself. In Jasper’s case, he sees words, numbers and even voices in colour and experiencing this alongside him in the book was a revelation. (Although I also think there is a danger of becoming too fixated on trying to remember all the colours he sees. I had to remind myself there was no test at the end of the book before I stopped doing so.)
Together with his synaesthesia, Jasper also experiences prosopagnosia (or face blindness), which admittedly is a huge obstacle for anyone trying to piece together people’s movements in the days leading up to the disappearance of their neighbour, and immediately afterwards. I had to admire Jasper’s tenacity, the coping mechanisms he puts in place to navigate life as he sees it, and raged on his behalf when someone set out to trick Jasper by using his own system against him.
As Jasper investigates his neighbourhood, people’s foibles and flaws are under scrutiny, and the solution when it’s revealed comes from a surprisingly dark place. Jasper and the colours he sees provide a perfect foil to these more shadowy elements. They shine through in the way he refuses to accept Bee’s disappearance and insists that the parakeets in her garden continue to be fed. They’re ever present in the challenges he faces both at home and at school, from the comfort he takes in his notebook arrangement to how fraught it is for him to be the messenger. Jasper’s an extraordinary character and I loved having the opportunity to see the world through his eyes and begin to understand what life is like for him.
The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris is published by Harper Collins. It’s available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback and paperback. You can buy it from Amazon UK or Hive where purchases support your local independent bookshop. For more on the author, check out her Author Website or follow her on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available through NetGalley.