That story begins on the other side of London, in rough North Kensington, where the three mixed-race, virtually orphaned Campbell children are bounced first from their grandmother then to their aunt. The oldest, 15-year-old Ness, is headed for trouble as fast as her high-heeled boots will take her. That leaves the middle child, Joel, to care for the youngest, Toby. No one wants to put it into words, but something clearly isn't right with Toby.
Before long, there are signs that Joel himself has problems. A local gang starts harassing him and threatening his brother. To protect his family, Joel makes a pact with the devil - a move that leads straight to the front doorstep of Thomas Lynley.
An anatomy of a murder, the story of a family in crisis, What Came Before He Shot Her is a powerful, emotional novel full of deep psychological insights, a novel that only the incomparable Elizabeth George could write.
©2006 Elizabeth George; (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
"George deftly depicts the palaver and predicaments of middle-[class] and working-class Brits in this dark, chilling tale of desperation and revenge." (Booklist)
"Another winner from the current master of the classic English mystery." (Atlantic Monthly)
Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery.
I've been conflicted on this one. I love Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley mysteries, have never listened to one, but have read them all. I'd been reluctant to read this one based on the jacket material, so opted to listen as an option.
If you're an Elizabeth George fan, this one is problematic because those characters we know and love and have followed for years make an appearance only in the last few pages of the book, though the dramatic foreshadowing prepares you exactly for what is going to happen.
George is just too heavy-handed with this one. Too unremittingly bleak, and also too didactic. Again and again we hear various characters talking about problems with "the youth of today." They harp on the desire for a rush of sudden fame, bad work ethic -- and the harping is not worked in elegantly, it becomes stulfyingly, speechifyingly overwrought.
This book is, perhaps, so much more slender than the typical George book because she tells and tells and tells vs. showing.
All that being said, I still give this three stars because she does create plot tension, not an easy thing to do given that the book opens with telling us that the "she" in question, Lynley's wife Helen, is going to be shot (so not giving away any surprises here). And the characters are compelling. But its hard to wallow in this world, as brief as the sojourn is, and no one likes to listen to lectures, especially when they're as ill-disguised as these are. At end, if you love George, read it or listen to it; if you haven't read George, don't start with this one. Start with any of her other Lynley mysteries, this one is a trifling by comparison.
I hesitated about downloading this one because I suspected it would be more about racial and social issues, and it is. This is not your typical Inspector Lynley or St. James story. Is it moving & thought provoking? A resounding yes. Just not what I wanted to read from Ms. George. I hated the ending, but realized it ended the only way it could have. Which in itself is a sad commentary on our society. See what I mean-depressing.
the Gadget Queen
Don't be dismayed that it's not the next Lynley/Havers book - it's well worth the listen. George has painted a vivid portrait of a year in the life of the 12-year-old boy involved in the shocking and senseless murder at the end of her last novel, With No One as Witness (no spoilers here!). Joel is the second of three troubled multi-racial children who are dumped on their well-meaning but overwhelmed aunt after their grandmother takes off for her native Jamaica. A talented poet who resists the temptations of street life in a tough London neighborhood, Joel will do anything to protect his siblings, particularly his damaged and fragile younger brother -- but he chooses the wrong protector, with tragic results for all concerned. George never makes excuses for the characters' actions, but her chilling narrative shows how easily their lives can become hopeless and their options irrevocably limited. I kept wanting to intervene, and felt helpless-- it's well-written but upsetting. Charles Keating is a great reader - brings the characters to life and nails the myriad accents.
I listened to this bit by bit while I walked and could not wait to get back to it every day. Charles Keating is phenomenal. The voices of the characters are so real. This book is full to the brim, with much going on, many layers, complex, rich, dense with all kinds of love and pain.
Thank goodness I didn't read the reviews before downloading this book! I, as usual, relied on the fact that I love this series and it's author. What may help would be to know that it is part 2 of a trilogy, if you will (my categorization only). Part 3 is Careless in Red, a very compelling read. The "trilogy" is the story of Helen's murder from 3 aspects and I truly enjoyed the journey, sad and depressing as it was. The usual story line tells of the murder, the chase and the capture. "What Came Before He Shot Her" comes from the other side of the story, the perpetrator and how he got there. And, of course, "Careless" is from the aspect of the distraught widower. I thought the idea of looking at the 3 sides through the 3 books was brilliant!
This is a compelling novel: knowing how it will end puts the reader in the position of helpless spectator to the events leading up to the culmination. More than once I wanted to shout "No!" at the choices the characters make, all the while knowing that from the characters' point of view, that is the best they can do.
I usually listen while I walk, but I was getting so choked up at the end that I had to wait until I got home to finish the book.
Excellent reader- Charles Keating does all the accents dead on.
I have always enjoyed Elizabeth George books so I kept listening, thinking it would get better. It did not. The whole story is about siblings who are deserted by their mother and left on their aunts doorstep. The aunt was not equipped to handle the problems of teenage sex, drugs and gangs. The book had no redeeming qualities. I can get this kind of drama on the nightly news.
I love Elizabeth George, I would say this is among her best writing. It is very sad, though. It is unlike the Lynley/Havers series but the quality of writing and evocation of feeling, characterization is great. I would recommend this book - the characters are very real. It is very engaging, a suspenseful story, just heart wrenching.
On reading this work you may want to dismiss it as mere fiction. It is, rather, an accurate depiction of the blighted lives of lowest of our socio-economic classes (at least in the U.S. and U.K.). Kudos to Elizabeth George for having the courage to write and publish this singularly authentic and disturbing work. Keating's narration does it justice.
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