Cover Image: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

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Member Reviews

I’ll be honest, when I first started reading this book I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Written from the point of view of Jasper, a thirteen year old boy with autism I was left a little confused initially and found the first few chapters difficult to get into. Jasper also has a condition called prosopagnosia, or face blindness, meaning he cannot recall people’s faces.  The way Jasper perceives people and sounds is through colours. This is where the writing is a little tricky to comprehend to start with but I can only say this – persevere! 

Via Jasper’s viewpoint we hear the complex story of Bee Larkham’s arrival in his street, the effect she has on him and others in the neighbourhood and her tragic end. With patience Jasper’s take on what is going on around him takes on a magical voice all of his own. Having lost his mother, who understand the complex workings of Jasper’s mind like no other, and with a father who is doing his best to understand his son but struggling, Jasper becomes entranced by Bee when she moves into the house she has inherited from her mother. Along with painting and his love of the parakeets which live near Bee’s house, she becomes a kind of solace to him. But is Bee just being kind or using Jasper?

Bee is a controversial character within their community and a source of gossip and speculation to many, but initially, to Jasper she is a source of joy and he sees within her colours that he likens to his mother. When Bee is murdered Jasper is seen as a key witness, but will anyone understand or believe Jasper’s unique narrative? Will they understand the colour of her murder?

I really do recommend this book. It is a murder mystery told in the most different and distinctive way. The writing is so very clever and although it is possible to get frustrated with Jasper at times I also found myself develop a huge affection for him. He will stay with me for some time to come!
My thanks to #Netgalley, the author and #HarperCollinsUK for a copy of #BeeLarkhamsMurder in exchange for an honest review
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13 yo Jasper hears colours. He has both Synesthesia and prosopagnosia, where he doesn’t recognise faces, even his own, but he sees the world in a kaleidoscope of colour. When something happens to his neighbour, Jasper needs to look past the colours and try and make sense of what happened.

Jasper’s world seems beautiful but terribly, terribly confusing and lonely. Sarah Harris’ writing is wonderfully descriptive. But when reading this I couldn’t help but be transported back to school trying to decipher whether an author was using a ‘blue door’ to convey their crippling depression and despair, or whether the door was just blue.

Repetition is often used to communicate Jasper’s autism. I am going to make an educated case and say that even Ornithology books do not use the word ‘parakeet’ as much as The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder does.  I have little experience with autism so I often found myself confused with Jasper’s narrative so would have to read some passages over slowly to make sure I had an understanding. The dual naming of characters, interchanging names and colours (Ollie/custard yellow) often made me pause as I tried to conflate characters and information. 

Despite the continuous repetition sometimes being frustrating, the plot of The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder was so intriguing that I couldn’t help but muddle through it. As I continued to read, I couldn’t help but feel desperately sad for Jasper and his father, Eddie. 

Jasper is unconsciously seeking a comforting female presence, he seems to have a blind trust in women in his life even those that purposely want to manipulate him for their nefarious misdeeds.

Whilst I felt sorry and angry for Jasper, my heart ached for Eddie, a hapless widower and single father to a young boy with an abundance of learning difficulties. A man that would do anything to protect his son. A son that he desperately wanted to reach but just couldn’t get through to. 

As an “unreliable character witness”, you can never truly trust Jasper’s recollection of events, this acts as a great plot device as you second guess him and your own plot deductions. Whilst a great plot device, this also circles us back to the above note about Eddie. Jasper is often suspicious, cold, distant and outright disdainful towards his father but no information is ever offered up as to why.

---------From this point, I will be discussing some plot points, so click away now if you don’t want spoilers! ------------

Up until this point, I loved this book - it was one of the most interesting concepts for a book I had read in a long time but there is one point that I simply cannot forgive. This book actively tries to evoke sympathy for a paedophile. Bee is a paedophile who preys upon the (slightly) older brother of one of her guitar students. She obsesses over Lucas, the 15-year-old, and manipulates Jasper into being messenger, delivering her sordid love notes. As you can guess from the title, Bee is murdered but there is no justice. I was horrified as I continued to read, thinking surely as they uncover her actions and cruelty there will be some sort of tonal shift in lieu of repercussions. But it got worse. As a third act curveball, it is revealed that Bee Larkham was molested as a child. So you see, she ISN’T a dangerous predator, she’s a poor misunderstood sweetheart that just wants to be loved. I cannot stress enough how disgusting that is. 

Even as the book concluded, the book continues to make excuses for Bee’s behaviour. She was cruel and manipulative towards Jasper, being vindictive enough to threaten false rape claims against Eddie to coerce Jasper into complying, and yet they visit her grave weekly. She raped Lucas, pressured him into a relationship and tried to harass him after he ended it - she never faced repercussions. Lucas and his younger brother are moved to a new town, away from their friends to live with their mother. “For a fresh start”. Lucas never gets justice. I have never felt so upset at the conclusion of a book as I did with The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder.

What has started as such a promising book has crashed and descended into a pedo-apologist shit show. 

2/5 Stars

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A unique book but unfortunately I struggled to connect with the story or the style of writing. I found it just too slow paced.
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Jasper Wishart, 13 years old, lives with his dad on an ordinary street. His neighbours are ordinary. However Jasper is anything but ordinary. He sees the world completely different. He can’t recognise faces, even his own. He loves painting and parakeets and is struggling to deal with the death of his mum. His world is both more colourful and frightening than ours. He suffers from synaesthesia, as well as being autistic. When a young woman, Bee Larkham, moves onto the street, she causes a disturbance among the inhabitants. Her appearance sets in motion a chain of events that leads to her death. Jasper has to piece together the information he has – trying to work out if he’s processed it correctly – in an effort to solve the murder of who killed Bee Larkham.

I really wanted to like this novel. First of all it’s a British murder mystery, it involves an interesting central character with a fascinating mental disorder, and it’s a whodunnit. But the truth of the matter is I was left a bit disappointed. I have never given up on a novel I’ve started reading, but the first half of this book was a real slog. I wasn’t enjoying it at all. Whilst the part about synaesthesia and austism were very interesting (I assume they were factually-based) the plot itself felt rather boring. I wasn’t particularly invested in the other characters. I think a lot of this is to do with the way the plot develops – we can only see things through Jasper’s eyes – so the voice of the narrative tended to over-emphasise the colours and moods rather than clues and story points. The secondary characters felt a bit vague and confusing. Which is exactly the way Jasper sees them.

However I’m glad I stuck with the rest of the novel because the second half of the book is much more revealing, and because of that, satisfying. By that point we’re understanding Jasper’s worldview, and are able to jump ahead a bit and make guesses at what really happened. It reminded me of a cross between Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ and LP Hartley’s ‘The Go-Between’. Jasper is, due to his synaesthesia and autism, an unreliable narrator, and there is much for the reader to work out. If I’d read just to the halfway point of the novel I’d have felt this was a 1 star book. By finishing it I’d give it 3 stars. There are quite dark themes here, which feel even more acute because of Jasper’s rather innocent view of things. Not a disaster, by any stretch of the imagination, but not one I could really recommend. I did get a decent insight into both synaesthesia and autism, and I also learned that there are parakeets living in Britain, but for me the plot wasn’t particularly engaging.
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This was a very unique take on a murder-mystery with an original protagonist! It took me a little while to get used to the narrative style of this story, but once I did, I really enjoyed it!
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A really fantastic, well researched novel. So unique and interesting, it kept me guessing until the end. Would recommend for fans of The Curious Incident.
It’s very character driven. Bee is a very layered character. She’s both a hero and a villain. Jasper is an unreliable narrator, but above all he’s inherently good, pure and “an innocent”. Reading the book from Jasper’s point of view as a kid with learning difficulties who doesn’t see faces, but instead sees colours when people speak or any sound is made, was such a fresh outlook.
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A tale of community, family, adolescence, obsession, parakeets and murder as observed by Jasper - a teenager with autism and synaesthesia. His voice is unusual and it's interesting to see the world through his eyes. His coping mechanisms are extraordinary. I liked the concept and was particularly intrigued to learn more about synaesthesia. Sarah J Harris has clearly undertaken a great deal of research and provides a list of useful resources at the end of the book. I'm also looking forward to listening to her related podcast.
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So, three stars = a very average book.
Well, no – in this case three stars = anything but average.

Without rehashing the blurb, 'The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder' really does feel like we are in the head of Jasper, an autistic boy who cannot recognise faces and sees sounds in dramatic (and very specific) colour. We get to understand his difficulties with life and everyday functioning that most of us take for granted, while the author expertly exposes the genuine humour in heartbreaking situations and the terror of the ordinary through a truly empathetic voice that stays true to her subject and never exploits.

So far so interesting. But what starts as a fascinating insight into an anything but ordinary child and his take on the world, quite quickly and tragically becomes irritating:
The constant listing of colours relating to every action, sound and nuance and the repeatedly observed obsessions that initially feel insightful start to grate. There is a probably a good story in there if we could please just get on with it.

But it is a good story – there has been a murder (not a spoiler; it says so on the cover) – but has there? Or was it an accident? Or is Bee Larkham actually still living? And is the obvious but unlikely murderer actually the killer? Jasper is certain of the facts but he is the definition of an unreliable witness.
Ultimately, we know that something has definitely happened.

The genius of this novel is that the reader is very cleverly given only small, oblique insights into what may have happened. It is this drip-feed revelation that kept me interested, not unfortunately the more ‘worthy’ synaesthesia aspect that initially drew me into the story.

'The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder' is a genuine whodunit but in a very original form and the author is to be praised for that but to be honest, at least half of it was for me quite a struggle to get through.
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I tried to listen to the audiobook of this novel and sounded like something that I would normally like, however I really struggled to connect to the main character and to care about what was happening. This would be better suited for readers who like slow paced books and that ain't me, especially not with the way in which it has been written.
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Such an innovative way of telling a story - I had my eyes well and truly opened into a world of synaesthesia. It made for a unique journey as Jasper tried to make sense of what was going on in his world. Great book and would definitely recommend.
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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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