Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris
Touchstone: 6/12/18
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501187896

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 watch them.

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 the mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Touchstone.

No comments: