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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 30, 2008
It is, essentially, the anatomy of a murder. It describes the events leading up to the conclusion of E. George's last work "With No One As Witness", however the connection starts taking shape only towards the end of this book. As an E. George's fan and after having enjoyed all the Linley/Havers mysteries, I was truly looking forward to find out some answers to the unexpected and tragic ending of her previous book, but the more I read, the more my eagerness became deflated. Simply, I had mistakenly expected a sequel, and this is not it.

However, my feelings wre not hurt, so to speak, as it is also true that the more I read the more I appreciated the story line, which I would define, at this point, essential for the understanding -or, at least, for coming to terms- with what had happened previously. This is a well written tale of a dysfunctional and troubled family in North Kensington, London. As usual, I have appreciated and enjoyed the author's ever- present deep psychological insights. Also, the inclusion of slang language dialogues, where needed, represents the main characters vividly and real-life-like. Some descriptions and situations resulting from impossibly hard and complicated circumstances are simply heartbreaking.

I would categorize this book almost as a statement about those people born into less fortunate families and backgrounds. It is a work of fiction and simultaneously a sad reminder of how things can go wrong in real life if proper support lacks in many ways, for reasons that may be commonly be considered avoidable but are, more often than not, beyond control, despite the well meaning efforts made by most people (some families themselves, authorities etc.) to avoid degeneration and degradation.
Conspiracy of silence and exterior toughness as means of survival dominate the scene but, predictably, they do not lead to definte/satisfactory/proper solutions but rather contribute towards the perpetuation of a cycle hard to break. Easier said than done, in both fictitious and nonfictional events.

I am now most definitely anticipating E. George's next Lynely/Havers book, "Careless in Red", which should be the "real" sequel to "With No One As Witness".
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon January 11, 2012
Book 14, in the Inspector Lynley series

Ms. George has given her beloved protagonists a long and deserved rest and moved forward to explore in depth and meticulous detail the darkness of violence, the unfortunate choice of very troubled individuals. This novel delves into events leading to the brutal death of Helen Lynley who met a tragic end in the last pages of 'With No one as Witness '. The method used is different from her other novels, this one ties up loose ends, a story stemming from another story.

I must admit I had a hard time getting into this mystery, it never gelled from the get-go however it may have been an off day for me. The story follows the path of three mixed-raced children from the Campbell family and how each one of them deals with the feeling of rejection after learning their grandmother abandoned them on their aunt's doorstep and left for Jamaica. As a reader we see how each character addresses the constant struggle to survive and the individual choices they made as they spiral down the road of no return.

This is a drawn out story with page after page of uneventful details, it reminded me of a 900 page essay I had for a school project. The black argot of London dialogue was hard to follow and required more concentration than I was willing to give, I found myself skipping paragraphs and feeling I had not missed a thing. I enjoy Ms. George's insight and her ability to draw verbal pictures of people caught on the edge creating an entertaining psychological drama but this time I was rather disappointed and I also miss the atmosphere the characters Lynley and Havers normally bring to the table. I like this series but from time to time it seems the ball is dropped and I am left with an OK' what is next feeling.
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on August 18, 2009
Having only read one Elizabeth George novel previous to this one (which I hated), I cannot comment on how this compares to the other novels she has written. This book is as its title describes, no more, no less. It gives the 10% of this world that does not live in abject poverty and fear a brief glimpse into a world that we cannot even imagine...that a 12 year old boy despearte to protect his family turns himself over to a man whose turf his family lives on, to keep them safe. All the while being used as a player to bring complete and utter disaster to the family he is trying to protect. I usually quit reading a book that is filled with the language that this one contains, but the language here emphasises the depravity of the culture. It's what is real, not what is added as an effect...there is a huge difference. So skillfully written that you just want to jump into the lives of the "innocent" characters and rescue them. This is not an easy book to read and it most certainly doesn't have a happily everafter ending. I usually read books quite quickly (in the space of 2 or 3 evenings) but this one had to be put down at times because once inside its world the need to escape to what my 10% of the world affluence and safety had to be resought for comfort.
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on August 27, 2007
Don't purchase this book thinking that it's another in the series of Inspector Lynley books or that it will provide any information about Lynley's response to the murder of his wife. This book is about the various adult, peer, and social pressures that are put on three abandoned children who are taken in by a well-meaning but unprepared family member who can't provide the guidance and support the children need. The story explains how the various pressures act on the children until one of them does the only thing he feels he can in order to protect his sibling. It's here, right at the end when the boy takes the gun in hand and approaches the woman who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that this book intersects with the Lynley mysteries. As a stand-alone novel it is certainly readable, but not a page-turner nor a book one can't put down. The characters are interesting and realistic, but their situation is saddening, a slow-motion trainride toward the inevitable wreck that will be these children's lives. It's all-too-easy to see this scenario or something very much like it as the cause of some of the violence on our city streets and for this reason the novel is an insightful peek into a grim social reality. After reading this you won't likely be left feeling happy, cheerful, uplifted, or perhaps even intellectually satisfied as you would after 'helping' Lynley and Havers solve their cases. It's more a novel for a couple of rainy afternoons, tucked up with your favourite blanket and cup of tea as you wait for the sun to come out so you can move on to more satisfying things.
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on February 20, 2007
Having read several of Elizabeth George's mysteries, I was surprised to find myself reading an entirely different type of book. Do not expect this novel to include the characters from her previous Detective Lynley series except in reference. I was not too sure what I would think of it, but as I read I became totally drawn into the characters and unable to put the book down. This novel takes us into the darkest parts of London and gives us insight into the people who must deal with the dangers and hopelessness in their everyday lives. The book, utilizing a mix of patois and formal English, is situated around one particular dysfunctional "family" and ultimately what led to the final desperate outcome. The book itself is a prequel to her previous novel "With No One As Witness" in that it takes us back into the events in the life of a young boy that led to the shooting of a Scotland Yard detective's wife. I found the book took me on a journey I would not normally want to take, but is well-written for its subject matter. It is definitely not a light read.
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on November 28, 2006
I may be unusual in that I am an African American who is also a huge Elizabeth George fan. I, like many readers, was surprised by the vehemence of my reaction to "With No One as Witness", as Helen had never been a favorite character of mine. But my response to that book made me even more eager to read "What Came Before He Shot Her". In some respects, George succeeds admirably. She is an evocative and gripping writer, and I found myself rooting desperately for brave and loving Joel and poor helpless Toby, even though I knew what was coming. Even the infuriating Ness was a terribly wounded child trapped in the body of a woman, with a rage she couldn't control, focused mostly on herself. Kendra, Dix, Ivan; all these characters tried in their own flawed ways to connect with the Campbell children, but circumstances and character deficits conspired to ruin these attempts at outreach. On this level, George approaches some of the heights of the Dickensian social problem novels she is apparently aspiring to, and it is a brave choice for a mystery novelist, especially after loyal readers were so outraged after the last book.

However, I have a few serious caveats. One is the relentless use of street patois, and the juxtaposition between speaking "proper, educated" English and the vernacular of the streets. While it is undoubtedly true that Kendra got a quicker police response to the charity shop using her "Lady Muck" voice than she would have otherwise, I find the suggestion that the only way for people of color to prove their worth and intellectual capacity is to speak in the accepted language of the dominant culture problematic. After all, in previous novels Havers has stood as an effective skewering of the faulty association between real worth and respectability and the old-guard idea of titles, university degrees and use of the Queen's English as the arbiters of class. While there is certainly a disparity between how whites and blacks are viewed according to their use of language, I find it problematic for George to perpetuate this idea as appropriate. Even more troubling is the suggestion that much of the Campbell children's difficulties stem from the fact that they are multiracial. It made me wonder if George has actually looked around London lately. Recent studies show that 50% of "black" children in Britain today have a white parent. So how much would the Campbell children really stand out? And George falls back on antiquated notions about a constant struggling for identity and inability to fit in that is an age-old literary trope but bears little resemblance to the real lives of multiracial people today, many of whom are challenging both the "one-drop" notion and its attempts to compartmentalize their identity, as well as the idea that they are tortured misfits who can't find their place in society. George even refers to (I'm paraphrasing here) Joel's blood being "at war", a fanciful and quite offensive notion that evokes the "tragic mulatto" stereotype that should have been stamped out with that "progressive and well-meaning" 60's British film "Sapphire". I think George has bitten off more than she can chew here, and while I would never suggest that only people of color can write about other people of color, George reveals her limited understanding of the realities of life for contemporary mixed race children. In addition, by making the Campbells appearance the apparent trigger for much of their troubles, she disconnects the reader from the other serious social and psychological ills that have led them inexorably down their tragic path.
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on November 1, 2006
If you really want to get to know the characters in a story, and you really care what happens to them, you will not be able to put this book down. It's really interesting how Elizabeth George connects this book to her last one - not exactly a parallel, but kind of a perpendicular. I thought the dialogue was natural and it didn't bug me at all. The only thing that upset me was the ending. I MUST know what happened to the main characters - if there is no sequel in the planning, I will be surprised and disappointed.
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on November 11, 2006
A very different twist on murder is put in this book. I loved the intellect involved in the prose and the characters were great. If you like mysteries and thriller this is a great read along with any of her other novels and Dead Scare and Speak No Evil by David Demello, great reads for the upcoming holiday season. You will be unable to put any down.
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on March 1, 2016
Was expecting a Lynley story so although it was well written not as interesting as the "who done its".
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on September 4, 2014
One of the BEST contemporary detective fiction writers for sure.
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