The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 May 2019

Member Reviews

My thanks to HarperCollins U.K. for a digital edition via NetGalley of ‘The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder’ by Sarah J. Harris in exchange for an honest review. It was first published in May 2018. My apologies for the late feedback.

This is an unusual mystery. Jasper, its lead character and narrator, is thirteen-years old and is autistic. He also has synaesthesia, which means he hears sounds as colours, and face blindness. 

He recounts the events in his street when Beatrice (Bee) Larkham comes home to sort out her mother’s estate. Bee is an eccentric character, playing her music loud and upsetting her neighbours. She also encourages a flock of parakeets to take up residence in her garden. This again upsets her neighbours, though delights Jasper, who is obsessed with the colourful birds.

I am reluctant to say much about the plot though as the title indicates Bee Larkham isn’t long for this world. As the publisher’s synopsis indicates Jasper witnesses Bee Larkham’s murder, though is unable to communicate this. Indeed, his memories are quite jumbled.

It wasn’t an easy novel to get into at first. However, after a few chapters I was able to better understand him, even if at times he was very frustrating including his repeated calls to 999 over perceived threats to his beloved parakeets. 

Harris has clearly done in-depth research in order to capture Jasper’s unique voice. There are a number of times when Jasper is confused and frustrated and that is communicated very effectively to the reader.

There were some disturbing undercurrents to the story that caught me unawares. Bee certainly left me feeling quite conflicted. 

Overall, an impressive debut. I am planning to recommend it as a selection for our reading group as it has plenty of material for discussion as well as being an intriguing and unusual murder mystery.
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Netgalley provided this book for review; but I had not requested it. It was not a book I would have chosen from the cover or description, but I am pleased that I have now read it and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.  I understand this is the first adult novel by Sarah Harris and it is a murder mystery, but with a big difference!  The Bee Larkham of the title comes to live across the road from Jasper Wishart and his father Edward, following the death of her mother, the previous owner. Bee is a bit wild and annoys the neighbours with loud music and frequent visitors for music lessons; they also object to her encouragement of a flock of parakeets who nest in her oak tree due to her regular feeding of them.  Jasper, a 13-year-old schoolboy and the main character in the book, is fascinated by the parakeets and keeps a very close eye on them from his bedroom window. The key to the book revolves around the fact that Jasper, whose own mother died when he was young, is autistic and has difficulty in communicating with people, he also suffers from a form of face blindness (prosopagnosia) and synaesthesia, whereby sounds evoke sensations of colour for him. This leaves hm unable to recognise people from their faces (even his own father) but able to distinguish them by the “colour” of their voices. When Bee Larkham is murdered Jasper gets involved in the investigation and even comes under suspicion himself, as he had visited Ms Larkham’s house in order to get a closer look at the parakeets. Due to his OCD He had also kept detailed records of all the visitors to the house across the road, but of course his records were by the “colour” of the visitors!  He therefore could not describe any faces to the police. Jasper’s difficulty in communicating and reluctance to be interviewed does mean the murder inquiry is extremely unusual, as is this book; but once I had got used to the idea of people and words being associated with colours, I found the whole thing fascinating and enjoyable. The book’s paragraph titles were also shown as colours in the sub text so that a Tuesday was also always Bottle Green and this made the whole thing that bit more quirky and yet thoroughly enjoyable. Bee Larkham’s Murder was of course eventually solved but in no small part due to the murderer having a distinctive colour. Many thanks go to Netgalley for providing me a copy for review, even thought I had not requested it!!  I really enjoyed it.
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A super creative mystery by Sarah J. Harris involving an unusual 13-year old boy named Jasper preoccupied with parakeets and born with synesthesia, the superpower of seeing colors when he hears sounds. Jasper also has difficulty recognizing faces. Although a work of fiction, this book opened my eyes to the real phenomenon of synesthesia.
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It started so well, very reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog on the Nighttime. I liked Jasper and found the description of his synaesthesia quite fascinating. But after half of the book I was so very fed up of it. Not because of disliking the character, but because of the insistence on detailing every single blooming sound in the story. Try trusting the readers with a bit of memory! In the end, I wasn't too bothered about who had committed the murder, just wanting it to end! Such a shame after such a promising beginning.
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Different-not too sure it was for me, although I do admire the writer's originality. A little too colourful for my taste.
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This is a story of a boy, Jasper, who believes he has committed murder. He has Autism and Prosopagnosia more commonly known as face-blindness which means Jasper has to recognise people by their clothes, not always reliable, and their voices. People are colours, things are colours and it is through his painting and his notebooks that he tries to explain what happened.

This is a delightful book and a wonderful first book from Sarah J Harris. Jasper is a delight as he sorts out how life works for him and how to solve Bee Larkham’s murder. Well, actually he knows who did it, doesn’t he? It’s more about how to let the police know. They don’t seem too keen on hearing what he’s got to say. At least initially. It seems that they are more interested in finding out what went on between Bee and another lad from his school. Jasper knows about that too. He’s worried about what he should say. He liked Bee but she wasn’t always nice. They don’t seem to realise that Bee isn’t just missing she’s dead.

Jasper is quite vulnerable and his Dad does his best but they both find it hard since his Mum died. His Mum understood him and Jasper misses her.

This is a heart warming, touching book which gives a fascinating insight into autism and especially prosopagnosia whilst giving the reader a unique detective and an amazing story. As Jasper relates what is happening and what, to his knowledge, did happen through his paintings, his memory and his unique understanding he realises something. It shows him everything. Now all he has to do is let the police know.

Sarah J Harris has written a gloriously uplifting and poignant story which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and highly recommend.

My Thanks...

This book sounded intriguing and I requested it through NetGalley. As I didn’t hear for a while, my patience is usually quite good, I thought I wasn’t going to get a copy. I was keen to read it so I bought an eCopy for my kindle. Then I got my request accepted! I don’t mind buying an eCopy or a paperback of a book even if I have had it via NetGalley. I would still like to thank HarperCollins UK and The Borough Press via NetGalley for accepting my request.
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A light, interesting read that kept me guessing until the end! Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced reading copy.
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A really interesting and different story with a narrator who simply doesn’t see the world in the same way as most of us. The murder was almost second place to jaspers complex negotiation of life. Funny and revealing, an enjoyable read.
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Jasper is autistic, can't recognise faces and can hear in colour.
When his new neighbour Bee Larkham is murdered he is a key witness but doesn't know who he has seen.
This is absolutely riveting and beautifully written. You feel such empathy for Jasper. Loved it ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thanks @netgalley for the digital copy in return for an honest review .
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I tried several times to read this book - but just couldn't get into it. I may try again in the future and update my review.
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This gripped me instantly and I actually read it in a day.

The child was so well described and fascinating but in parts it was painful to read.
Much emotional pain comes through and shows how people react and respond.
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Such a unique book.  Once you settle in with the voice of the main character, you can't stop turning the pages.  It paints life and experiences  as seen from the perspective of someone with quite rare conditions that cause/enable him to view life a little differently to most others.  I heard about this book for a long time before getting the chance to read it; all that noise was justified.
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This book was not for me. I found it hard going and somewhat depressing.  Similar concept to 'Curious Incident'.
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loved this book once I had "got into it" which took a short while, time well spent.
Great introduction to children who are "different" who am I? a "normal person" who has only really come into close contact with "normal" children. This child is different, autistic and more with a strained dad who is trying to cope having lost his partner a great read,.
A murder, a love interest a police investigation at time very caring, other times not so caring.
It has it all and provokes your imagination in a way few of us will have come into contact with.
I could not put it down, I needed to know what became of all the characters, I cared about the all, they were different n their own ways.
What I need to know now is what happens next?
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This was a fascinating  book about a young man who sees the world in colours, is autistic and face blind. He studies the world around him based on these precepts, making notes as he goes. A great witness for a murder!
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This wasn’t really a slow starter, as we dive in pretty much straight away with the main character trying to confess to murder, but it was a very tricky book to get into at first.

Jasper, the main character and narrator, has two specific conditions which permeate all of his perceptions and observations with unavoidably intrusive effect: he has synesthesia, seeing sounds as colours; and he has prosopagnosia, meaning that he is unable to recognise or identify faces (even his own). This means that everyone he meets, even his dearest loved ones, are identified by the colour of their voice along with any external identifiers Jasper is able to commit to memory (red trousers, sitting in a particular seat, regularly enters and exits the same house).

There is also a strong impression that Jasper is on the autistic spectrum, as he has trouble with sensory inputs overwhelming him, and he finds it very difficult to access social interactions due to very literal and logical thought processes and an inability to understand emotions expressed outside of direct linguistic parameters (such as “I am feeling sad”, “That makes me feel angry”). Of course, difficulty understanding and processing feelings does not mean that you don’t feel them, and in Jasper’s case those strong feelings, brought on by recent disturbing events, make it even more difficult for him to be understood – by other characters and by the reader.

I was really fascinated by the portrayal of Jasper’s mixture of sensory processing disorders, but confess that for the first half of the book (like some of the other characters) those same conditions that made him a unique and interesting narrator also made it incredibly hard to ‘listen’ to his story. I felt overwhelmed by colours and parakeets, unable to understand the interactions he described or follow the plot as he explained it, and frustrated at the distance from all of the other characters and lack of distinctive/useful information that I could use to work out who was doing what.

Then, suddenly, just around halfway through the book it all clicked into place for me. I had grown accustomed to Jasper’s way of thinking and could ‘translate’ his story in ways that made sense in my mind. Suddenly his colours became beautiful and the parakeets’ safety was of the utmost importance and I finally understood everything properly! the key was simply persevering and being open to a different form of communication.

Once my mind had adapted to the style, I loved this story and the characters. Without Jasper, this would simply be a neighbourhood murder mystery with no body, a handful of suspects and a multitude of motives. The adult characters are all perceived with their small (and large) flaws thanks to Jasper’s meticulous record of minutiae, but we can find empathy as we read between the lines and find emotions and concepts that he just cannot grasp.

Jasper is what makes this book special though, of course. His narration style may take some effort, but it is worth it for a glimpse at a different way of seeing the world – in all its beautiful, noisy colours!

Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged, silver icicles.
That’s what I told the first officer we met at the police station, before Dad could stop me. I wanted to confess and get it over and done with. But he can’t have understood what I said or he forgot to pass on the message to his colleague who’s interviewing me now.
This man’s asked me questions for the last five minutes and twenty-two seconds that have nothing to do with what happened to my neighbour, Bee Larkham, on Friday night.

– Sarah J. Harris, The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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A very unusual book to read. Coming from the lads perspective. I found it a bit of a slog if I’m honest but If you can, give it a go#NetGalley
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What an extraordinary read this is.. the tale of a young boy with a strange condition that means he sees sounds in colours. His take on the disappearance of a young neighbour who lives across the street was a delight to read as I’ve never read anything like it before. I feel some readers may give up on this quite early due to its uniqueness but I advise all to stick with it. Fantastic read from start to finish. Thanks to the publisher for the arc.
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I absolutely loved this book. It so reminded me of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime ad well as The Cactus. I loved the interplay between Jadper and his Dad and really liked how it is written from Jasper's perspective. I really could see where Jasper was coming from. A brilluant read.
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I loved this book! I was hooked from beginning to end. I loved that it was both a mystery with a twist, and that it introduced me to a perspective I'd never read from before. I would highly recommend, and can't wait to read more from Sarah J Harris.
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