The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris
eBook review copy; 368 pages
The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris is a highly
recommended mystery about an autistic boy with synesthesia who is
certain he has done something wrong.
Jasper Wishart, 13, lives in a world defined by color for sounds,
words, days, and numbers. While he can't recognize people's faces, he
does recognize their colors through their voices. When Bee Larkham moves
in across the street, the first thing he notices is her color, which is
so close to his deceased mom's color. Bee brings new colors with her,
in her music and her life, and, even more importantly, she sets up bird
feeders to encourage the parakeets roosting in the tree in her yard.
Jasper, who paints the colors her sees, is overjoyed by the beautiful
swirling colors the parakeets bring to his world. He uses binoculars to
Jasper also keeps detailed notebooks about the parakeets, the colors he
sees and the people, via their colors, that visit Bee Larkham. Bee may
have brought color to the neighborhood for Jasper, but she also brought
noise complaints from angry neighbors. We know from the start of the
book that Bee Larkham was murdered, and Jasper sees her murder as "ice
blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged silver icicles." He is in
the police station being questioned with his father, and his father has
brought in many of his notebooks. Jasper is sure he is responsible for
her murder, and his dad is covering up for him. He is going back,
through the colors in his memory and paintings that tell the story of
the parakeets and Bee, to tell us what happened.
The narrative alternates between present day and the past, leading up to
Bee Larkham's murder, and is told through Jasper's first person unique
perspective. The writing is excellent and Harris uses Jasper's
synesthesia to provide the details to tell the story. Readers must be
determined to stick with the narrative and Jasper's untrustworthy
memories, as well as follow the colors Jasper assigns to various sounds
and what he notices. It isn't always easy.
The writing is excellent and Jasper is an interesting character. With
the narrative jumping between time periods and with the detailed
color assignments from Jasper, the ideal reader will likely be willing
to invest the time to follow his colors to get to the truth and have a
good color vocabulary/visual identification. I know my colors, shades,
tints and tones, so this wasn't difficult for me, but might be a
struggle for some readers. It was worth it to get to the end and uncover
My review copy was courtesy of Touchstone.