The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris #BookReview

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

How do you solve a mystery when you can’t understand the clues?
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…

An extraordinary and compelling debut which will make you see the world in a way you’ve never seen it before.

Title: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder | Author: Sarah J Harries | Publisher: HarperCollins | Pages: 448 | ISBN: 9780008256371 | Publication date: 3rd May 2018 | Source: ARC .mobi from Net Galley

‘The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder’ might not be a book that’s going to leap off the shelves as a must buy for crime fans, but it’s definitely one that I’d recommend to anyone who likes a good mystery. First and foremost it’s a moving and fascinating novel about autism and synaesthesia (the neurological condition that results in a joining or merging of senses that aren’t normally connected), but the whodunnit element is ever present and very skilfully handled.  

It tells the story of Jasper, a thirteen year old boy who sees sounds as colours and is unable to distinguish human faces. When one of his neighbours and friends, Bee Larkham, is murdered, Jasper is pulled into the investigation. What follows is a gradual unveiling of what has led up to the crime, as well as a sensitive examination autism and synaesthesia.   

Jasper is a great protagonist: sympathetic, fascinating and a convincingly and engagingly unreliable narrator. His unique take on the world means that past events take on different meanings as he replays them, a trait that works perfectly in a mystery novel. He shares many of the characteristics of great detectives like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot – an obsession with the collection of evidence, a rigidly logical mind and a relentless drive to uncover the truth. There is even a wonderfully Poirot-like “assembling of the evidence” scene towards the end of the book which I thought worked brilliantly.   

The tick tock approach of interspersing chapters of present day narrative with flashbacks is a very common one nowadays, but author Sarah J Harris uses it to good effect here. Jasper’s replaying of past events in the light of Bee’s death works on two levels – it progresses the plot and our understanding of the mystery in an engaging way, and it brings the boy hero’s character to life. As the events of recent weeks are laid out, the tension builds brilliantly as the relationship between Bee, Jasper and another boy at his school, Lucas, comes into focus.

This is a book as much about people as it is about plot. Jasper is definitely its heart, but around him are a cast of other characters who are just as believable. His father, Bee, Lucas, the neighbours on the street and the police investigating the case. All come together to create a convincing community that we meet through Jasper’s eyes.  Like many great crime novels, in the end the events of the distant past have as much bearing on things as more recent ones. As the plot develops so does our understanding of the characters and their motivations, making for a rich, mature and satisfying mystery.

This is Sarah J Harris’ debut novel for adults and there is a great deal to like about it. It’s readable without always being easy reading, gripping and complex without being overly complicated, and funny and moving in equal measure. Whilst it isn’t a traditional crime novel, ‘The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder’ is a novel with enough mystery to delight crime fans and enough of everything else to please readers who don’t normally enjoy the genre. I enjoyed every page and am keen to see what Harris does next.   


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