There are three things you need to know about Jasper:
- He sees the world completely differently
- He can’t recognise faces – not even his own
- He is the only witness to the murder of his neighbour, Bee Larkham
But it’s hard to catch a murderer when you can’t recognise their face…
The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder has two main threads to it. Firstly, there is Jasper Wishart, who has both synaesthesia and prosopagnosia meaning, respectively, that he sees sounds as colours and that he is unable to recognise faces. I felt that this aspect of the novel was dealt with brilliantly. Harris has clearly done her research into the realities of living with both synaesthesia and prosopagnosia, and I thought that Jasper’s view of the world – a view that is completely different to that of most people – was brilliantly portrayed.
Jasper’s mother also had synaesthesia, and so Jasper’s early years were spent in the company of someone who understood him. With her passing away, he was left bereft, and while it can’t have been easy for his father, Ed, being a single parent, it did seem as though he hadn’t really tried to understand Jasper. As soon as I started the novel, I immediately felt a great deal of sympathy for Jasper, as his father seems so impatient with him, and is quick to point out his special needs, as he sees it. Ed generally seems to think quite poorly of his son, and seems to want nothing more than for Jasper to be more like other children.
He wants me to pretend I see the world like he does, monochrome and muted. Normal.
The second thread focusses on Bee Larkham, Jasper’s neighbour and someone who the other residents in their quiet neighbourhood see as something of a trouble maker. Bee has disappeared, and no one seems to know where or why. No one but Jasper. The novel opens with Jasper and his father at the police station with Jasper being interviewed as a potential witness. The mystery surrounding Bee’s disappearance is a compelling one – there are plenty of red herrings and likely culprits, and Jasper’s own role in the events raises even more questions. The novel is set predominantly in the aftermath of Bee’s disappearance as the neighbours and the police try to establish what happened to her. But Jasper also provides flashbacks – from his own unique perspective – from the time she moved in to the point at which she disappeared as he tries to work out what happened, and what his own role in Bee’s disappearance was.
The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is told from a unique perspective, and it gives the mystery a refreshing twist by having to rely upon someone who makes a poor witness due to his inability to recognise faces. That said, Jasper has other ways of identifying people, using the colour of their voice as well as other, carefully memorised, distinguishing features, and I loved the gradual reveal of what happened.
This is a wonderful novel about a very special boy, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy seeing the world from a different perspective.