January 2019 Club

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris

On page one, we are told that the colour of Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged, silver icicles.

Jasper is convinced he murdered Bee Larkham because he knows the colours generated by her voice in her last moments of life.

He's an extraordinary boy who experiences the world through synaesthesia, is face-blind and has autistic tendencies. He is obsessed with painting the colours he hears, with recording every detail of events in his street and with the parakeets in Bee Larkham's tree. As a potential witness, the fact that he writes all his observations down are a plus but if he can't recognise people in the room, not even his dad, how can he be a reliable narrator?

Bee Larkham is a troubled soul who moves back to the street after her mother dies. We learn why she had such a turbulent relationship with her mother, why she can be viewed as manipulative and why she prefers friendships with young boys. Jasper is drawn to her because he hears the colour of her voice as a paler version of his late mother’s cobalt blue intonation and Bee lets him view his beloved parakeets from the vantage point of her bedroom window.

Jasper lives in an isolated, confusing world. He struggles to understand people’s motivation and finds it hard to know who’s telling the truth. He attempts to paint the colours on canvas to try to make sense of the world, knowing that they will eventually reveal the truth. He’s unsure of his own reality which challenges the reader to work out what’s going on and who did what. Is his former Royal Marine father just struggling to look after his special needs son or is there a more sinister side to him? Can the neighbours be trusted? Trust is a recurrent theme throughout the novel.

Although there are times when Jasper’s repetitiveness and obsessions can irritate the reader, as I’m sure was the author’s intention, the overall concept and resolution made this a very unusual crime novel and it was ultimately hard not to love Jasper and part-envy him for his colourful perception of the world.

Colourway inspiration

The choice of colour in this book was almost overwhelming! There were often three to four colour references on each page, which made it difficult to narrow down the selection. The added challenge was that often the colours Jasper describes aren’t what he sees, but what he hears.

Parakeet Chatter – for the variegated colourway, although Ring-necked parakeets are mostly green to our eyes, Jasper sees them in terms of the colours of their calls which range from sapphire blue, fuchsia and golden yellow to flamingo pink, peacock blue and violet. I took a pale powdery ice blue – the colour of Bee Larkham’s voice – and speckled these colours onto this base to represent how Jasper perceives the parakeet calls.

Cobalt Blue - for the semi-solid colourway, it had to be Jasper’s favourite cobalt blue, representing the voice of his mother, who when she died, left him alone in his colourful world. She was the only one he knew who could relate to his experiences as she experienced the world in the same way as she too has synaesthesia.

Yarn choice   Ravish is a potent blend of merino, silk and cashmere which takes the colours beautifully.