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

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

3.3 82
by Elizabeth George

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A kind and well-loved woman was brutally and inexplicably murdered. The pregnant wife of a respected police inspector, her death has left Scotland Yard shocked and searching for answers. Perhaps most horrifying of all, the trigger of the weapon that killed her was apparently pulled by a stranger . . . a twelve-year-old boy.

The anatomy of a murder, the

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A kind and well-loved woman was brutally and inexplicably murdered. The pregnant wife of a respected police inspector, her death has left Scotland Yard shocked and searching for answers. Perhaps most horrifying of all, the trigger of the weapon that killed her was apparently pulled by a stranger . . . a twelve-year-old boy.

The 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.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
“George is in top form here.”
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.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Inspector Lynley Series, #14
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.40(d)

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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.

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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.

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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