The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder
Touchstone, June 2018
Synesthesia, the condition where a person sees colors with people’s words and other things, has made several recent appearances in crime fiction with varying degrees of success. Sarah Harris brings the condition to readers in The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder where Jasper Wishart is convinced he murdered his neighbor over some wild parakeets. Readers get the story in reverse as we are introduced to Jasper and his father after Bee is dead and the police are investigating, then move backwards in time to the night of the murder. While Jasper’s synesthesia is the focus of Jasper’s odd behaviors, Jasper also suffers from prosopagnosia, the inability to visualize or remember faces. This condition also figures into the plot. It is clear that Jasper is also on the spectrum. Jasper is thirteen though his behavior is that of a much younger child. It appears that he suffers from OCD and impulse control. Jasper is an interesting character.
The murder mystery itself is pretty good. There are several twists along the way to keep the reader interested and to allow for a more suspects. And the writing is also beautiful.
My problem with this book, and it is a big one, is the synesthesia is overplayed to the point where I found the story almost impossible to follow for most of the first half to two-thirds of the book. The chapters are all subtitled with a color, many of the characters we only know by Jasper’s color name for them and the dialogue is packed full of the colors that Jasper is seeing. I do believe this would have worked better for me if at some point readers would have had the benefit of the perspective of another character on the happenings. Further into the book we do get a bit of the story told from the father as the crime is slowly unraveled, but it was a long time in coming. It would also have helped if perhaps the author would have chosen to give us other names for the characters or a listing somewhere so that we could glance back and she who “yellow french fries” or “cherry pants” among others were and what their role in the neighborhood was.
I understand the author was striving to give readers realistic experience into what life with these conditions is like, but for me, it was just too much overpowering what was basically a very good whodunit.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St.Clair, June 2018.