George, Elizabeth - 'What Came Before He Shot Her'
This book by the creator of the Inspector Lynley mysteries, Elizabeth George is unique in relation to the other mysteries in the series in that very little of it includes her usual main characters. In the previous book to this one, WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS the wife of Acting Superintendent Lynley is shot and killed and it is important to have read the previous book to understand the full context of the story in this latest one.
This book opens with Glory the grandmother of the Campbell children deciding to leave the UK for Jamaica. She takes the three grandchildren, Joel, Ness (short for Vanessa) and Toby (who has learning difficulties) to stay with her niece Kendra in North Kensington. The niece is actually not at home but this doesn't seem to be a problem as the children are just left with their luggage outside the small house and the grandmother leaves for Heathrow Airport.
Ness is a street smart, mixed race girl who later indicates to her Aunt Kendra that she will attend school daily but in reality is meeting two similar girls and they spend their days wandering around the estate or indulging in petty shoplifting to raise money to get drugs. Eventually, Ness is caught shoplifting and taken to court and as a result gets put on probation. She also gets involved with a drug dealer known as Blaze.
Joel, her younger brother has to take his seven year old remedial brother to school with him across the sink estate risking taunts and barbs from other kids on the way. The two brothers get beaten up a couple of times and because of this twelve year old Joel thinks he needs protection and endeavours to get it from Blaze. Blaze, however wants Joel to do a favour for him first and gives him an empty gun and persuades him to mug an old lady. This Joel messes up and eventually he is given a loaded weapon and told to accompany someone else to another part of London and shoot this woman, who turns out to be Lady Lynley.
I enjoyed this book enormously, because I have read most of the previous stories by Elizabeth George and know she writes her books in a particular style where she slowly paints each individual character portrait, multi-layering the blend of characters as the story, slowly takes shape. Yes, the book could have been shorter but all of her books are of a similar length. I suppose she wanted to indulge her readers with a new story line about a black disadvantaged boy who is trapped into killing (or did he?) the wife of the main character of all her previous books. I look forward to her next one.
Terry Halligan, England