Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: What Came Before He Shot Her

Title What Came Before He Shot Her
Author Elizabeth George
Rating ****
Tags mystery, series, thomas lynley, poverty, tragedy, london 

This is a train-wreck of a book. Because of the book before this one, we know the tragedy that this book ends with. It is part of the Thomas Lynley series, but the main characters in that series are only briefly in this book, which explains how a seemingly senseless tragedy happened.

The main characters are three siblings, Ness, Joel, and Toby. Their father is dead, their mother in a mental home, and their grandmother abandons them to go home to Jamaica. She leaves them with their aunt, Kendra. Kendra is around 40, widowed once and divorced once, working in a charity shop and trying to get a business going as a massage therapist. She has never had children, and two of these three are particularly difficult to deal with. Ness is fifteen, refuses to go to school and seems interested only in sex and drugs and the occasional petty theft. Toby is eight, with severe developmental disorders and a way of retreating into an imaginary world. The burden of caring for Toby mostly falls onto 12 year old Joel, the responsible one, the one who finds an unexpected talent for poetry in himself. But Joel makes an enemy, and the enemy targets Toby, who is so very vulnerable. Joel is willing to go to any lengths to protect Toby, and that is what leads him into the fatal error.

This is a hard book to read. It is, in part, about how grinding a life of poverty is, the burden and hopelessness of it. It is also in part about the errors that can be made with perfectly good intentions but a panic-inducing level of desperation. The characters at first seem unlikeable, and one doesn't want to care about them, knowing there is a terrible ending, but one learns to care. The author seems to as well, as her voice breaks through the narrative more than in her other books. She'll say, for example, something like "and that would not be his only mistake", things that jar the reader out of the narrative somewhat. In the end, it is a compelling but uncomfortable book, a picture of unalterable despair.



Publication Books on Tape (2006), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
Publication date 2006
ISBN 141593424X / 9781415934241

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

No comments: