The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris
Winner copy – Paint your own proof
Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…
Jasper is not ordinary.
In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…
Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.
He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.
But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…
This novel is possibly one of the quirkiest novels I have ever come across. The protagonist Jasper Wisham, has to be the ultimate unreliable narrator. As Jasper, as we come to know and love him, has learning difficulties. Which doesn’t mean that what he says is untrue/lies either, it just means his version of the truth maybe, his interpretation of the truth. There will always be an element of truth within it, but it may take some de-coding and that code is unique to Jasper.
I know this, and can adequately describe this (I hope), as I myself have been blessed with a child with learning difficulties. My son has Autism, his interpretations of the world around him, are completely unique to his experiences. But he also couldn’t lie or fabricate the truth, if his life actually depended upon it. Like Jasper, he has the quirk of what I call ‘brutal honesty’. If you ask my son a question, you will get the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth. It is never wise to ask him questions you may not, want a truthful answer too. As my sister learnt one day!
‘My life is a thrilling kaleidoscope of colours only I can see’ – Jasper
Back to the story, what makes Jasper’s world also unique is that he has a condition called synaesthesia. Which means he interprets the world in a multitude of colours. It is further expanded upon in the book and the person who best describes it is Jasper.
His story really is worth a read!
‘Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with gritty edges and jagged silver icicles’
We open the novel on Tuesday (bottled green). Jasper is at the police station being interviewed by DC Richard Chamberlin. A school boy has made accusations against Bee. The police officer desperately tries to relate to Jasper. But fails to fully grasp what his father calls his ‘profound learning difficulties’. Jasper it appears, is lost within his own world. His father tries to protect him from the probing questions of the police officer. But at times Jasper can’t but help blurt out facts whether relevant or not.
‘Try to act normal, don’t flap your arms, don’t rock’
The interview is deemed a failure and Jasper is free to go.
But it is his own thoughts that are his own worst enemy.
‘I have to remember what happened the night I murdered Bee Larkham’ – Jasper
Jasper’s world doesn’t just consist of colours. He is an avid ornithologist and has a keen eye for art. Through the novel, we enter Jasper’s world and learn about his various obsessions and behaviours. He is an intelligent young man and I really liked his character. Well, actually I wanted to adopt him! I just found his unique world-view so beautiful. I just had to know, if he had committed a murder first. . .
‘I can’t stop seeing the colour of murder’ – Jasper
Jasper is 13yrs old, his mother was the only one to truly understand his world. He misses her terribly, as she passed when he was just 9yrs old. His father then left his career in the Royal Marines to take care of Jasper. Throughout the novel his father, is desperately trying to understand the world in which Jasper lives. This is evidenced when Jasper catches him reading a parenting guide to autism.
Which Jasper completely misinterprets. . . .
‘Trying to get a grip on why I’m difficult. Why I’m different from other teenage boys.
Why I am so hard to love’
The above quote really resonated with me. It actually made me cry. What people/parents/teachers forget when they try to ‘understand’ autistic people and get inside their individual worlds. Is that they are people too, with feelings. Autistic kids/teens are still capable of feeling emotional pain. This is something so over-looked, in an adult’s determination to ‘understand’ or ‘fix’ the child/teen.
The author has truly done an outstanding portrayal of an autistic character and how those around them can struggle to interpret their world. But she has also illustrated their vulnerabilities, which some people may manipulate.
And so we come to Bee Larkham. . . .
Bee Larkham befriended Jasper as soon as she moved into the neighbourhood of Vincent Gardens. She spotted his love of art, colour and parakeets. She knew exactly how to manipulate Jasper to her will.
But can you ever fully control someone, who systemically refuses to be controlled?
The intense friendship that develops, often made for uncomfortable reading.
But it has you desperate to uncover the truth of, what occurred the night Bee Larkham was murdered?
The last 130 pages were insanely gripping, as the plot finally unravelled, and the truth was revealed. Jasper Wishart is a character I will not forget in a long time! This novel hit close to home for me, but it only enhanced my enjoyment of it. Others with no experience of autism or learning difficulties may find it eye-opening reading.
I think this novel is perfect for book groups, due to the various themes within. I also would love to see it being discussed in schools/colleges. It can offer a real insight into the world of learning difficulties and the protagonist is just so perfectly written! 4*
Winner – Paint your own proof – Images:
My husband painted the proof cover: