What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George

I picked this up at a library book sale. I have not read Elizabeth George before, but I am aware of her long running series with Inspector Lynley.  This is actually not a mystery really.  I would just call it a crime novel.  Apparently in the previous book in the series Inspector Lynley’s wife is killed and this book tells the story of the killer’s life leading up to the event that takes her life.

The killer is Joel a young orphan with an out of control older sister, an overwhelmed aunt, who they live with, and a younger brother who is supposed to be autistic from the descriptions.  Joel tries to do everything to take care of his ragged family and survive in a world of drugs, prostitutes, bullies and crime.  Unfortunately, his best is not enough.  This book explores statements about class and race and social inequities that are not “fun” to read about.  It opens up the discussion of choice and how things such as one’s race, wealth, or other accident of birth limit choices sometimes to the point that there are no good ones.

Although this was not what I was expecting (I thought it was going to be a mystery), it was well written and the author did a particularly good job with the character’s voices, speaking street language in a way that seemed natural and not contrived. I do think that a reader would benefit from at the least being familiar with the series, if not having read the directly preceding book.

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