13 yo Jasper hears colours. He has both synesthesia and prosopagnosia, where he doesn’t recognise faces, even his own, but he sees the world in a kaleidoscope of colour. When something happens to his neighbour, Jasper needs to look past the colours and try and make sense of what happened. This is my review of The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder.
Jasper’s world seems beautiful but terribly, terribly confusing and lonely. Sarah Harris’ writing is wonderfully descriptive. But when reading this I couldn’t help but be transported back to school trying to decipher whether an author was using a ‘blue door’ to convey their crippling depression and despair, or whether the door was just blue.
Repetition is often used to communicate Jasper’s autism. I am going to make an educated case and say that even Ornithology books do not use the word ‘parakeet’ as much as The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder does. I have little experience with autism so I often found myself confused with Jasper’s narrative so would have to read some passages over slowly to make sure I had an understanding. The dual naming of characters, interchanging names and colours (Ollie/custard yellow) often made me pause as I tried to conflate characters and information.
Despite the continuous repetition sometimes being frustrating, the plot of The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder was so intriguing that I couldn’t help but muddle through it. As I continued to read, I couldn’t help but feel desperately sad for Jasper and his father, Eddie.
Jasper is subconsciously seeking a comforting female presence, he seems to have a blind trust in women in his life even those that purposely want to manipulate him for their nefarious misdeeds.
Whilst I felt sorry and angry for Jasper, my heart ached for Eddie, a hapless widower and single father to a young boy with an abundance of learning difficulties. A man that would do anything to protect his son. A son that he desperately wanted to reach but just couldn’t get through to.
As an “unreliable character witness”, you can never truly trust Jasper’s recollection of events, this acts as a great plot device as you second guess him and your own plot deductions. Whilst a great plot device, this also circles us back to the above note about Eddie. Jasper is often suspicious, cold, distant and outright disdainful towards his father but no information is ever offered up as to why.
———From this point, I will be discussing some plot points, so click away now if you don’t want spoilers! ————
*TW* Up until this point, I loved this book – it was one of the most interesting concepts for a book I had read in a long time but there is one point that I simply cannot forgive. This book actively tries to evoke sympathy for a paedophile. Bee is a paedophile who preys upon the (slightly) older brother of one of her guitar students. She obsesses over Lucas, the 15-year-old, and manipulates Jasper into being messenger, delivering her sordid love notes. As you can guess from the title, Bee is murdered but there is no justice. I was horrified as I continued to read, thinking surely as they uncover her actions and cruelty there will be some sort of tonal shift in lieu of repercussions. But it got worse. As a third act curveball, it is revealed that Bee Larkham was molested as a child. So you see, she ISN’T a dangerous predator, she’s a poor misunderstood sweetheart that just wants to be loved. I cannot stress enough how disgusting that is.
Even as the book concluded, the book continues to make excuses for Bee’s behaviour. She was cruel and manipulative towards Jasper, being vindictive enough to threaten false rape claims against Eddie to coerce Jasper into complying, and yet they visit her grave weekly. She raped Lucas, pressured him into a relationship and tried to harass him after he ended it – she never faced repercussions. Lucas and his younger brother are moved to a new town, away from their friends to live with their mother. “For a fresh start”. Lucas never gets justice. I have never felt so upset at the conclusion of a book as I did with The Colour of Bee Larkin’s Murder.
What has started as such a promising book has crashed and descended into a paedo-apologist shit show.
Thank you to HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.