When I started this book I was afraid it was going to be a boring English story filled with lots of dull parts like many English books seem to be. Was I wrong? You bet I was! What Came Before He Shot Her is a very long book but Elizabeth George keeps the reader very interested from page one through to the end.
The story follows a dysfunctional family through a part of their lives mainly taking place in the London area. It takes you through good and bad people and neighborhoods. It starts when Joel Campbell is eleven years old. Joel, his little mentally challenged brother, Toby who was seven, and a sister, Ness, a physically well-developed teenager, were literally “dropped off” at their Aunt Kendra’s house. They had been living with their grandmother but grandma decided she wanted no part of raising these kids. She wanted to go to Jamaica to live with her boyfriend. The children’s actual mother was in a home for psychiatric care. She had her sensible moments but they disappeared fast. The grandmother had no qualms leaving the three children on the doorstep of their aunt and taking off with a promise she knew she would never keep: of having the children join her and the boyfriend in Jamaica at some future time.
The story follows the children when they are found by their aunt around and near her house as she tries to assimilate what has occurred. Eventually she knows she wants to try to take care of them but she has no experience for doing so and no idea how to start. She registers them in various schools according to their ages, with Toby going to a special school. Joel has to take charge of Toby coming and going to school on his way to his own school. Ness goes to school when she wishes to go.
Ness and Joel get into bad company and get into more trouble than a rabbit being chased by a fox while Toby sometimes gets picked up by Joel and sometimes he does not know what to do to get home. The antics that unsupervised children of these ages can get into present too much opportunity to Ness and Joel. Ness is very over-sexed and does all she can to show this to all the others in the area, many times going too far! Joel’s troubles compound and multiply many times over as he meets some boys that are not a good influence for any human.
The troubles the children get into, followed by the created chaos that Aunt Kendra falls into when she finds a younger boyfriend, become a part of the puzzle. She and the boyfriend do not set any type of good example for the kids and they only get worse, if that could be possible.
The story might sound very involved but it is easy to follow the way the author writes. She blends various London areas and is sure the reader knows what type of a neighborhood the story line is in as she goes forward. The police, foster childcare, magistrates, and several gangs come into play, all of which make this book delightful, and certainly not dull. Several surprises take place throughout the book making the reader wrong in any assumptions.
REVIEWED BY CY HILTERMAN
Thanks for visiting!