*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, The Borough Press, Harper Collins UK and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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.
This wasn’t really a slow starter, as we dive in pretty much straight away with the main character trying to confess to murder, but it was a very tricky book to get into at first.
Jasper, the main character and narrator, has two specific conditions which permeate all of his perceptions and observations with unavoidably intrusive effect: he has synesthesia, seeing sounds as colours; and he has prosopagnosia, meaning that he is unable to recognise or identify faces (even his own). This means that everyone he meets, even his dearest loved ones, are identified by the colour of their voice along with any external identifiers Jasper is able to commit to memory (red trousers, sitting in a particular seat, regularly enters and exits the same house).
There is also a strong impression that Jasper is on the autistic spectrum, as he has trouble with sensory inputs overwhelming him, and he finds it very difficult to access social interactions due to very literal and logical thought processes and an inability to understand emotions expressed outside of direct linguistic parameters (such as “I am feeling sad”, “That makes me feel angry”). Of course, difficulty understanding and processing feelings does not mean that you don’t feel them, and in Jasper’s case those strong feelings, brought on by recent disturbing events, make it even more difficult for him to be understood – by other characters and by the reader.
I was really fascinated by the portrayal of Jasper’s mixture of sensory processing disorders, but confess that for the first half of the book (like some of the other characters) those same conditions that made him a unique and interesting narrator also made it incredibly hard to ‘listen’ to his story. I felt overwhelmed by colours and parakeets, unable to understand the interactions he described or follow the plot as he explained it, and frustrated at the distance from all of the other characters and lack of distinctive/useful information that I could use to work out who was doing what.
Then, suddenly, just around halfway through the book it all clicked into place for me. I had grown accustomed to Jasper’s way of thinking and could ‘translate’ his story in ways that made sense in my mind. Suddenly his colours became beautiful and the parakeets’ safety was of the utmost importance and I finally understood everything properly! the key was simply persevering and being open to a different form of communication.
Once my mind had adapted to the style, I loved this story and the characters. Without Jasper, this would simply be a neighbourhood murder mystery with no body, a handful of suspects and a multitude of motives. The adult characters are all perceived with their small (and large) flaws thanks to Jasper’s meticulous record of minutiae, but we can find empathy as we read between the lines and find emotions and concepts that he just cannot grasp.
Jasper is what makes this book special though, of course. His narration style may take some effort, but it is worth it for a glimpse at a different way of seeing the world – in all its beautiful, noisy colours!
Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged, silver icicles.
That’s what I told the first officer we met at the police station, before Dad could stop me. I wanted to confess and get it over and done with. But he can’t have understood what I said or he forgot to pass on the message to his colleague who’s interviewing me now.
This man’s asked me questions for the last five minutes and twenty-two seconds that have nothing to do with what happened to my neighbour, Bee Larkham, on Friday night.
– Sarah J. Harris, The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder
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The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is available on Amazon and at other good bookshops right now!
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