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What Came before He Shot Her (Inspector Lynley Series #14)
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What Came before He Shot Her (Inspector Lynley Series #14)

3.3 82
by Elizabeth George

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The brutal, inexplicable death of Inspector Thomas Lynley's wife has left Scotland Yard shocked and searching for answers. Even more horrifying is that the trigger was apparently pulled by a twelve-year-old boy. What were the circumstances that led to his final act of desperation? That story begins on the other side of London in rough North Kensington, where the


The brutal, inexplicable death of Inspector Thomas Lynley's wife has left Scotland Yard shocked and searching for answers. Even more horrifying is that the trigger was apparently pulled by a twelve-year-old boy. What were the circumstances that led to his final act of desperation? That story begins on the other side of London in rough North Kensington, where the virtually orphaned Campbell children are bounced from home to home. Fifteen-year-old Ness is headed for trouble as fast as her high-heeled boots will take her. Middle child Joel cares for the youngest, Toby, but something clearly isn't right with Toby. Before long, a local gang starts harassing Joel and threatening his brother. To protect his family, Joel ends up making a pact with the devil—a move that leads straight to the front doorstep of Thomas Lynley. The anatomy of a murder, the story of a family in crisis, What Came Before He Shot Her is a powerful and emotional novel, full of deep psychological insights, that only the incomparable Elizabeth George could write.

Performed by Charles Keating

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Elizabeth George departs from her bestselling Inspector Lynley series with an intriguing new novel that, nonetheless, takes as its launching point the climactic scene from last year's Lynley-centered mystery With No One as Witness, in which the inspector's pregnant wife was inexplicably shot to death. The aptly titled What Came Before He Shot Her chronicles the sequence of tragic and heartrending events that led up to the murder.

Front and center in the drama are three effectively orphaned siblings, left on their aunt's North Kensington doorstep after their self-absorbed grandmother abandoned them and hightailed it for Jamaica. With a delinquent older sister who is well on her way to a lifetime of incarceration and a younger brother who would rather exist in his imaginary reality, 11-year old Joel has the weight of the world on his shoulders -- and does what he must to protect his family and himself…

Featuring children whose lives have been irrevocably destroyed by poverty, abandonment, and widespread social neglect, George's novel is eerily reminiscent of Charles Dickens's 1838 classic, Oliver Twist (Dickens is even referenced on the first page) -- only replacing the pickpockets and chimneysweeps of London's Victorian slums with gun-toting pushers, disease-ridden drug addicts, and underage prostitutes. While What Came Before He Shot Her may be a bit of a surprise to fans of the Thomas Lynley mysteries, this profoundly powerful novel will surely satisfy everyone who reads it. Paul Goat Allen
Rosemary Herbert
By selecting telling details about her characters' lives in inner-city London, by delivering utterly readable and believable dialogue, and by keeping Joel's dilemmas at the heart of this work, George makes one feel invested in the outcome. The result is nothing short of absorbing. Even without her long-time sleuths, Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers, George is in top form here.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Bestseller George (With No One as Witness) departs from the usual investigative nuts and bolts of her Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers mystery thrillers with this searing examination of the lives of one horribly dysfunctional family and their immigrant London milieu. Switching uncomfortably at times from dialogue in a rough patois to exposition in a language both formal and sociological, George delivers a stinging indictment of a society unable to respond effectively to the needs of its poorer citizens. Kendra Osborne, a 40-year-old woman with modest ambitions and plans to achieve them, has no idea how to cope when her mother "dumps" her sister's three children on her doorstep and heads for Jamaica. Fifteen-year-old Ness, 11-year-old Joel and seven-year-old Toby each have a wealth of problems exacerbated by their mixed-race heritage. It's no accident that George refers to Dickens on the first page of this earnest but perhaps overly didactic novel, which focuses on the burdens borne by Joel as he's swept by forces he can neither understand nor control into a fatal encounter. 8-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Twelve-year-old Joel Campbell's father was gunned down by thugs, and his mother is confined to a mental institution. Joel and his siblings live with an unwelcoming aunt in a dangerous part of London. His 15-year-old sister, Vanessa, is trading sexual favors for drugs, and his eight-year-old brother, Toby, spends much of his time in an imaginary world called Sose. To gain protection for his vulnerable little brother, Joel gets involved with the Blade, a vicious neighborhood drug dealer. Joel is the boy who, at the end of George's last novel, With No One as Witness, was arrested in the shooting death of Det. Peter Lynley's wife, Helen. This is an unusual sequel in that, rather than taking up where the last book left off, with the expected cast of characters-Barbara Havers, Winston Nkata, and Peter Lynley-it veers off to tell Joel's story. It's not the Lynley/Havers mystery some fans may be expecting, but it's a gripping story that, without preachiness, shows how a good child can lose his way. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/06.]-Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
How many wrong decisions can a 12-year-old make?Joel Campbell is a kid with too many responsibilities. His dad has died in the wake of a drug deal gone wrong, his mother drifts in and out of psychosis in a locked ward and his granny's decamped for Jamaica, leaving him, his in-your-face sister Ness, 15, and their loony brother Toby, 8, in a scruffy London flat with their aunt Kendra. It's up to him, Joel thinks, to make things right for everybody. But how can a 12-year-old compensate his sister for five years of abuse that's led her into drugs and indiscriminate sex? How can he be Toby's principal caregiver and protect him from gang dust-ups without admitting to his aunt that anything's wrong? And how can he stop the social worker from sending Toby into foster care; keep the guy Ness shagged, then humiliated, from taking revenge; and prevent the cops from labeling him a troublemaker when all his plans go belly-up? Inexorably, every decision Joel makes leads to tragedy. A barge fire almost immolates Toby. A gang rape turns Ness from victim to knife-wielder to convict. The bad luck stretches all the way to Belgravia, where Inspector Thomas Lynley's wife Helen meets Joel and a handgun on her doorstep. Despite a bit too much chirpy art-as-savior philosophizing, this is George's best since A Great Deliverance, her 1988 debut. Read it and weep.
Washington Post Book World
“George is in top form here.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Inspector Lynley Series , #14
Edition description:
Abridged, 9 CDs, 10 Hours
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

What Came Before He Shot Her

By Elizabeth George

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006

Elizabeth George

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060545623

Chapter One

Joel Campbell, eleven years old at the time, began his descent towards murder with a bus ride. It was a newish bus, a single decker. It was numbered 70, on the London route that trundles along Du Cane Road in East Acton.

There is not much notable on the northern section of this particular route, of which Du Cane Road is but a brief part. The southern section is pleasant enough, cruising near the V & A and past the stately white edifices of Queen's Gate in South Kensington. But the northern part has a list of destinations that reads like a where's where of places in London not to frequent: the Swift Wash Laundry on North Pole Road, H. J. Bent Funeral Directors (cremations or burials) on Old Oak Common Lane, the dismal congeries of shops at the turbulent intersection where Western Avenue becomes Western Way as cars and lorries tear towards the centre of town, and looming over all of this like something designed by Dickens: Wormwood Scrubs. Not Wormwood Scrubs the tract of land circumscribed by railway lines, but Wormwood Scrubs the prison, part fortress and part asylum in appearance, place of unremitting grim reality in fact.

On this particular January day, though, Joel Campbell took note of none of these features of the journey upon which he was embarking. He was in the company of three other individuals, and he wascautiously anticipating a positive change in his life. Prior to this moment, East Acton and a small terrace house in Henchman Street had represented his circumstances: a grubby sitting room and grubbier kitchen below, three bedrooms above, and a patchy green at the front, round which the terrace of little homes horseshoed like a collection of war widows along three sides of a grave. It was a place that might have been pleasant fifty years ago, but successive generations of inhabitants had each put their mark upon it, and the current generation's mark was given largely to rubbish on doorsteps, broken toys discarded on the single path that followed the U of the terrace, plastic snowmen and rotund Santas and reindeer toppling over upon the jutting roofs of bay windows from November till May, and a sinkhole of a mud puddle in the middle of the green that stood there eight months of the year, breeding insects like someone's entomology project. Joel was glad to be leaving the place, even if leaving meant a long plane ride and a new life on an island very different from the only island he'd so far known.

"Ja-mai-ca." His gran didn't so much say as intone the word. Glory Campbell drew out the mai till it sounded the way a warm breeze felt, welcome and soft, with promise gilding its breath. "What you t'ink 'bout dat, you t'ree kids? Ja-mai-ca."

"You t'ree kids" were the Campbell children, victims of a tragedy played out on Old Oak Common Lane on a Saturday afternoon. They were progeny of Glory's elder son, dead like her second son although under entirely different circumstances. Joel, Ness, and Toby, they were called. Or "poor lit'l t'ings," as Glory had taken to referring to them once her man George Gilbert had received his deportation papers and she'd seen which way the wind of George's life was likely to blow.

This use of language on Glory's part was something new. In the time the Campbell children had been living with her--which was more than four years and counting this time around and looking to be a permanent arrangement--she'd been a stickler for correct pronunciation. She herself had been taught the queen's English long ago at her Catholic girls' school in Kingston, and while it hadn't served her as well as she'd hoped when she'd immigrated to England, she could still trot it out when a shop assistant needed sorting, and she intended her grandkids to be able to do some sorting as well, should they ever have the need.

But all that altered with the advent of George's deportation papers. When the buff envelope had been opened and its contents perused, digested, and understood, and when all the legal manoeuvring had been engaged in to prolong if not to thwart the inevitable, Glory had shed over forty years of God-save-the-current-monarch in an instant. If her George was heading for Ja-mai-ca, so was she. And the queen's English wasn't necessary there. Indeed, it could be an impediment.

So the linguistic tone, melody, and syntax morphed from Glory's rather charmingly antique version of Received Pronunciation to the pleasant honey of Caribbean English. She was going native, her neighbours called it.

George Gilbert had left London first, escorted to Heathrow by immigration officials keeping the current prime minister's promise to do something about the problem of visitors overstaying their visas. They came for him in a private car and glanced at their watches while he bade Glory a farewell thoroughly lubricated by Red Stripe, which he'd begun to drink in anticipation of the return to his roots. They said, "Come along, Mr. Gilbert," and took him by the arms. One of them reached into his pocket as if in search of handcuffs should George not cooperate.

But George was happy to go along with them. Things hadn't really been the same at Glory's since the grandkids had dropped on them like three human meteors from a galaxy he'd never quite understood. "Look damn odd, Glor," he'd say when he thought they weren't listening. "Least, the boys do. S'pose the girl's all right."

"You hush up 'bout them," was Glory's reply. Her own children's blood was thoroughly mixed--although less so than the blood of her grandkids--and she wasn't about to have anyone comment on what was as obvious as burnt toast on snow. For mixed blood was not the disgrace it had been in centuries past. It no longer made anyone anathema.

But George blew out his lips. He sucked on his teeth. From the corners of his eyes, he watched the young Campbells. "They not fitting good into Jamaica," he pointed out.


Excerpted from What Came Before He Shot Her
by Elizabeth George
Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth George.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Elizabeth George is the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels of psychological suspense, one book of nonfiction, and two short story collections. Her work has been honored with the Anthony and Agatha awards, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, and the MIMI, Germany's prestigious prize for suspense fiction. She lives in Washington State.

Walter Lord received his B.A. in history from Princeton University in 1939. After war service in the OSS, he graduated from Yale Law School. His other books include A Night to Remember, Day of Infamy, The Good Years, A Time to Stand, Incredible Victory, The Dawn's Early Light, Lonely Vigil, and The Miracle of Dunkirk. He estimates that for every year of writing, he spends two in research.

Charles Keating has been nominated for both the Tony and Emmy Awards. He has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in Brideshead Revisted and Another World.

Brief Biography

Seattle, Washington
Date of Birth:
February 26, 1949
Place of Birth:
Warren, Ohio
A.A. Foothill Community College, 1969; B.A. University of California, Riverside, 1970; M.S. California State University

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What Came Before He Shot Her 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am so surprised by the number of negative reviews of this book. I was blown away by this book. To be able to tell this complex story without offending but offering background information as to what might propel someone in a certain trajectory, in this case a negative one is simply a work of sheer genius. This book stayed with me long after i read it. The way elizabeth george was able to get me into the minds and lives of her characters so i could see why they did what they did was an unbelievable feat for any author. This book is a must read.
LeslieDK More than 1 year ago
This is a very well-constructed novel. The suspense is generated with the title: you don't know who "he" is nor do you know "her". All characters are well-developed. The plot is interwoven beautifully. The dialogue takes only a few moments to catch the rhythm: dysfunctional Black family in London with Jamaican ties. Great story. Great read. I don't usually like the so-called detective series. This is in a class by itself. I have been passing it along to all my friends and family.
nprfan1 More than 1 year ago
Wow. That was my first reaction on finishing this incredible book.

Like many other fans of George's Lynley/Havers series, I was shocked when she killed off Thomas Lynley's wife Helen for no apparent reason. This story doesn't provide a reason - indeed, there are several questions left unanswered - but what it does provide is a detailed and searing look into the background of the supposed shooter. And yes, I said "supposed". I'm not going to insert a full spoiler here; I'll just leave you with that tantalizing hint.

What this story also provides is proof - as if any were needed - that George can venture into fields other than mysteries and (British) police procedurals and still spin a ripping good yarn. In some respects the story of Joel Campbell is rather typical. He's the product of a broken home, with a mother in the psych ward, a little brother who's not altogether there, and an older sister who is nowhere near as violent as Aileen Wuornos but whose sexual proclivities make Wuornos look like a pansy.

The tale starts with the children's grandmother dropping them off at their aunt's flat - she's running away from them and from her responsibilities as their unofficial guardian, and thus begins the tale of their downfall.

There are, as I said, some unanswered questions. We see the killing of Helen Lynley from Joel's point of view, but we still don't understand the why. It's implied that there is some kind of connection between Thomas Lynley and the criminal known as the Blade, but George doesn't explain or give any hint as to the nature of that connection and as far as I remember the Blade isn't mentioned in the "prequel" ("With No One as Witness").

Perhaps she'll provide an explanation someday, but this is still a well-written and extremely interesting look into life on the other side.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first book I've read by the author - but I should say I only partially read it. The plot was good, but I couldn't get past trying to translate the bad grammer. I finally said "enough" and put the book down. I think the look into the lives of the poor and dysfunctional relationships in famlies shows the starkness of society and had a worthy plot and I'm not turning a blind eye to the situation - I just couldn't get through the book. Maybe I'll try at a later time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had previously read some of Elizabeth George's previous books and had gotten a little bored with them. I read in a review of her current book that the wife was murdered and saw this book in the discount pile at B&N and figured it was worth a try. I hate when people write in dialect but the story just pulled me in. Joel just kept spiraling down and down and it broke your heart that children need to do so much on their own. In a perfect world no one wants to read such depressing writing for entertainment but these characters were so real and George brought their thought processes to life. Everyone needs to see how the other half lives and thank your lucky stars that your children live safer lives than this. But, her ending paragraph was too vague for me. Since Joel didn't pull the trigger I wanted him and his family to be saved. Somehow. A happy ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read most of Elizabeth George's procedurals, and while they may be long, angst-ridden and wordy, they usually deliver well-crafted and genuine characters and decent plots. Not this one. It's a long rambling, shallow exploration of what it means to be poor and different. Totally not a mystery, and also to me, extremely bogus. I've been poor and different, and this ain't it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I started this book I was afraid it was going to be a boring English story filled with lots of dull parts like many English books seem to be. Was I wrong? You bet I was! What Came Before He Shot Her is a very long book but Elizabeth George keeps the reader very interested from page one through to the end. The story follows a dysfunctional family through a part of their lives mainly taking place in the London area. It takes you through good and bad people and neighborhoods. It starts when Joel Campbell is eleven years old. Joel, his little mentally challenged brother, Toby who was seven, and a sister, Ness, a physically well-developed teenager, were literally ¿dropped off¿ at their Aunt Kendra¿s house. They had been living with their grandmother but grandma decided she wanted no part of raising these kids. She wanted to go to Jamaica to live with her boyfriend. The children¿s actual mother was in a home for psychiatric care. She had her sensible moments but they disappeared fast. The grandmother had no qualms leaving the three children on the doorstep of their aunt and taking off with a promise she knew she would never keep: of having the children join her and the boyfriend in Jamaica at some future time. The story follows the children when they are found by their aunt around and near her house as she tries to assimilate what has occurred. Eventually she knows she wants to try to take care of them but she has no experience for doing so and no idea how to start. She registers them in various schools according to their ages, with Toby going to a special school. Joel has to take charge of Toby coming and going to school on his way to his own school. Ness goes to school when she wishes to go. Ness and Joel get into bad company and get into more trouble than a rabbit being chased by a fox while Toby sometimes gets picked up by Joel and sometimes he does not know what to do to get home. The antics that unsupervised children of these ages can get into present too much opportunity to Ness and Joel. Ness is very over-sexed and does all she can to show this to all the others in the area, many times going too far! Joel¿s troubles compound and multiply many times over as he meets some boys that are not a good influence for any human. The troubles the children get into, followed by the created chaos that Aunt Kendra falls into when she finds a younger boyfriend, become a part of the puzzle. She and the boyfriend do not set any type of good example for the kids and they only get worse, if that could be possible. The story might sound very involved but it is easy to follow the way the author writes. She blends various London areas and is sure the reader knows what type of a neighborhood the story line is in as she goes forward. The police, foster childcare, magistrates, and several gangs come into play, all of which make this book delightful, and certainly not dull. Several surprises take place throughout the book making the reader wrong in any assumptions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ajb0304 More than 1 year ago
Found this book one of the more tedious to get through. Although it shows a Lynley novel - there is really no interaction with this character. Only on the last few pages are there any of the original characters (Sgt. Havers & Sgt. Nkata) no Lynley ** mentioned. Obvious ending ... Not one of the better novels from George. A long 805 pages... most of which I skimmed through.
nsrn More than 1 year ago
George's writing is always exceptional. That being said, I was thoroughly depressed when I completed this book.
FlyhighTEC More than 1 year ago
Of all the Eliz George Inspector Lindley series this is the most disappointing and even difficult to read. It seems as if it weren't written by George. Seemed like a flash/trash novel, not well written and gruesome details overwritten. I did want to know what the background was to the young boy shooting Lynley's wife, but was sorry I asked. I enjoy George's novels so much that I kept reading to see if this book got better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Using poor grammar to emphasize on the lack of education and social differences of the characters is not only derogatory and racist, but it also takes away from the reading experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Delving into the background of a young Keller we do not know what we will find. George has done a marvelous job of creating evil from innocence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Lynley mystery without Lynley or Havers! Not very compelling reading. Having read the prequel I was tempted to simply read the last chapter and find out what happens to Joel. All the twists and turns of the story developing the downward spiral of a dysfunctional family did not make for attention grabbing reading. Sorry I bought it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story pulled me in, very tragic characters and deep plot. I wasnt aware this was part of a series. I will definitely check out the rest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not a mystery, but rather crime explained. I found parallels to how young, poor kids fall into gang groove. It is written from a child's perspective, so innocently fallen into the bad side.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not like it. It was very depressing. I finally stopped reading since I know who did what from the previous book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Geoerge is an engaging writer and her Inspector Linley is usually a page-turner. I have been known to stay up until finishing one book and immediately ordering the next for my nook. That being said, I did not enjoy What Came Before He Shot Her. This was not because of the story line, but in order to enjoy a book you need to have a connection to the characters, and in this book there was nothing redeeming about any of them. A total downer as was a previous title of the same ilk. I was very happy to move on in the saga to the next adventure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hesitant to begin this book,in part because of the mixed reviews it had received, and also because of the absence of Lynley et al. But George's characters, especially Joel, are so well-drawn that they keep you reading. In this novel, young Joel Campbell's childhood innocence is cruelly worn away by a relentless series of family tragedies. His efforts to protect his fragile brother Toby are both noble and heartbreaking as he naively bets his own life on a deal with the devil. There is so much tension between Joel's innate goodness and the evil around him that eventually you stop waiting for Lynley to appear. I would definitely recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago