Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George has had a successful career with her novels centering on the London police and particularly the career of Thomas Lynley.  There are twelve Lynley novels before this one, and readers delight in the intricate detailing of crime and the procedures used by the police to solve them, as well as the relationships Lynley builds both professionally and personally.  At the end of the twelfth book, With No One As Witness, George creates a stunning climax when Lynley's wife is murdered on their doorstep.  Readers were aghast, unsure why an author would write such a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

In her thirteenth novel, What Came Before He Shot Her, George explores the societal factors that inevitably led to the murder.  Three siblings are left with their grandmother when their father is killed and their mother hospitalized for mental illness.  Tiring of her responsibility, the grandmother leaves London for Jamaica and dumps the children on their aunt.  Kendra, the aunt, has no idea what to do with these children.  Ness, the sister, is fifteen.  Her oldest brother, Joel, is eleven and the youngest boy, Toby, is seven.  Each has multiple issues that precludes a successful life for them.

The book follows the children's lives as they attempt to adjust to Kendra's house.  Ness immediately moves into the street life, mixing with girl gangs and hoodlums.  Joel is determined to take care of Toby, who has mental health issues of his own, but is unable to carve out a place of safety for them.  He is slowly drawn into the life around him, where individuals are forced to join one side or the other for protection. 

Many of George's fans were lost when she made her decision to have Inspector Lynley's wife killed.  They couldn't bear to revisit the pain that decision brought to them and were in no mood to hear about any explanation.  Yet George forged ahead and wrote this book to explain the reasons that crime occurs and how society fails those least able to make their own way in the world.  This book is recommended for fans of George's prior novels and will help them reconcile her decision and enjoy the series again. 

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