Imagine seeing colours when you hear sounds.

Jasper does. Some are beautiful, some are ugly, but all of them help him understand a world he often finds confusing. Tuesday is bottle green. Wednesday is toothpaste white. And Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged, silver icicles.

What’s it about?

Jasper has tried to confess to Bee’s murder, but the police don’t seem to be listening. Perhaps they don’t understand him; Jasper certainly doesn’t understand them. He’s not even sure the detective is a real policeman – he’s not dressed like one. The police want to discuss Lucas Drury and his relationship with Bee, but Jasper’s face-blindness means he couldn’t pick Lucas Drury out of a line-up, even if he wanted to, which he doesn’t. After all, Lucas didn’t kill Bee – or did he?

Gradually, as Jasper relives his memories of his relationship with Bee – and the rest of his neighbours – he edges closer to recalling the true events of one terrible Friday night, but it’s hard to solve a mystery when you don’t understand the clues.

What’s it like?

Fascinating. Original. Poignant. This is a novel where, by the time the story draws to a close, most of the characters will demand our sympathy, despite some awful wrongdoings.

Jasper has frustrated some readers with his relentless focus on the parakeets he adores, but for me his behaviours rang absolutely true for a child with autism – especially his immediate, intense responses to distress. As Jasper painstakingly reconstructs the events of the preceding weeks, we might think we see a pattern emerging, but like Jasper, until you have all the evidence, it’s hard to reach a safe conclusion.

Throughout the book Harris moves back and forth between Jasper in the present, distressed by the events of Friday night, and Jasper in the preceding few weeks, meeting Bee and becoming her accomplice. I found this (added to the confusion already created by Jasper’s difficulties interpreting the world around him) a little disorientating at first, mostly because there were so many unexplained references. Twelve murdered parakeets. Multiple 999 calls. Silver pointy stars on Jasper’s tummy. Gradually though, the stage for murder is set and Harris skilfully steers our suspicions one way, then another, forcing Jasper to question: what was the real colour of Bee Larkham’s murder?

Final thoughts

I’ve been wanting to read this for ages and it was just as good as I’d hoped. Jasper’s perspective makes this story intriguing, though I was much more interested in how his autism and face blindness complicated his interpretation of events than in the presentation of his synaesthesia. That’s probably because I know several autistic people and so I’m more interested in how they are presented in fiction. (Jasper’s bluntness is spot-on! Sadly, so is his dad’s acute embarrassment about Jasper’s stims and interests.) I find synaesthesia fascinating but largely incomprehensible, even after reading about Jasper’s experiences.

But that’s enough about the unique perspective; this works well as a whodunnit, too, and is one of those books I found myself immediately rereading to enjoy how cleverly all the pieces of the puzzle slotted together.


‘The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder’,
Sarah J. Harris,
2018, HarperCollins Publishers, paperback