Source: Netgalley Review copy
Publication: Paperback edition published on 27 December 2018 by The Borough Press
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.
Our protagonist, Jasper, is the ultimate in unreliable narrators. Jasper doesn’t engage with the world in the way that others do. For a start, he has face blindness – prosopagnosia, which means that he is unable to recognise faces, even those he sees every day, like his dad’s, so he has to rely on familiar clothing or pieces of jewellery to recognise people.
Jasper also has synesthesia, a condition in which one sense is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses. Jasper’s form of synesthesia means that he perceives words, concepts and sounds with the sensory perception of colour. So, Jasper’s mum, now deceased, was for him a joyous cobalt blue. Thursday is apple green and Jasper’s dad has an ochre voice and always wears a blue shirt and blue jeans for him.
So Jasper lives in a world that is different to everyone else. He loves his colours and understands the world through them. They are what inspire him to tell his stories through his paintings. Like many people with autism, he is also quite literally minded and is a bit compulsive, obsessive with a tendency to repeat things and so it is sometimes difficult to tell the past from the present when he tells his story.
,It is undoubtedly the colours that make this story. Seeing the world through Jasper’s eyes is a visual delight. These are colours that light up the imagination and stimulate the senses as Jasper struggles to tell his story in a way that others will understand. His love of music is informed by the dancing, bright and sparkling colours that music produces for him and enhances his joy several fold.
Into Jasper’s world comes a newcomer to his street, Bee Larkham. Bee is a colourful character who loves birds, exotic clothes and loud music and is a breath of fresh air to Jasper’s suburban street.
When Bee moves in, she begins to feed the birds and that helps to attract the brightly flashing parakeets which captivate Jasper. He looks at them every day from his bedroom window, recording their movements alongside those of the people on his street. He does this in a series of notebooks which are a written accompaniment to the vivid paintings that he makes and which also document his daily life.
It is no wonder that Bee becomes a focus for Jasper; she is everything that Jasper loves – musical, loud, colourful. And she also loves his parakeets which is an immediate point of bonding. So when Bee Larkham disappears, it is no surprise that the police turn to Jasper to try and understand what happened.
But is Jasper’saccount reliable? And who really knew Bee Larkham? By all accounts she knewmore than one man in the street very well indeed.
Jasper’s obsessive compulsive tendency is mirrored by thestory and this can sometimes make progress in understanding quite slow, but thedelight in this book comes from understanding the way in which Jasper has beenmanipulated to understand a story that is different to the one that others willsee.
So if you are looking or thrills, chills and fast paced narration, this isn’t the book for you. But if you want to enter another world; to see life from a different perspective – even perhaps to feel a little jealous about the vivid colours that Jasper sees but we do not, than sit back and immerse yourself in Jasper’s kaleidoscopic, colourful and fractured world and understand a little better why people behave the way that they do.
Verdict: Impactful, fascinating and so well researched, this is a unique story with many facets.
Sarah Harris is an author and freelance education journalist.TheColour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is her first adult novel though she has three YAbooks written as Sarah Sky.
Sarah grew up in Sutton Coldfield and studied English at Nottingham University before gaining a post-graduate diploma in journalism at Cardiff University. She trained as a journalist at the Western Daily Press in Bristol, where her highlight was interviewing screen legend Charlton Heston and her low point was being sneezed on by a cow at a fatstock competition.
Sarah enjoys martial arts – she is a black belt in karateand a green belt in kick-boxing. She lives in London with her husband and twoyoung sons.