She’s Leaving Home is William Shaw’s debut novel. Set in 1960s London, a young woman’s body is found on a residential street, near the Beatles’ recording studio on Abbey Road. Detective Cahal Breen needs to solve this case to prove he is still up to the task of being a detective, following what appears to have been an act of cowardice. Teaming up with Helen Tozer, a new policewoman, Breen begins to focus on the many young fans who congregate outside the Beatles’ studio.
I have to admit, the reference to the Beatles is what first drew me to this book. I still remember eating ice cream at Goodwin’s Dairy in Maine and talking excitedly to my sister about the new group on The Ed Sullivan Show that night. As you can imagine, I particularly enjoyed the book’s references to the Beatles and Abbey Road though there is very little discussion about the Beatles as a group or their work.
However, I found the details about the fans and their lifestyles to be interesting and believable. For instance, according to the author, fans referred to each other based on their favorite members of the group, dropping their own last names. In the story there is a Carol-George and a Carol-John. The fans congregate both outside the studio on Abbey Road and George Harrison’s home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Beatles. The young woman killed in this story is one of these fans.
Detective Cahal Breen is a likeable and well-developed character. He is honorable and expects the same from his colleagues. I found him to be a very believable character as well. As an Irish cop on an English police force, he is forced to deal with issues of racism as well as a general lack of respect from his colleagues. Many of his co-workers call him “Paddy,” including Helen Tozer when she first meets him. Tozer is also treated poorly by others on the force. She not only endures what would be considered sexual harassment today but also a general lack of respect for her skills as a policewoman. Both Breen’s and Tozer’s work as detectives and the resolution of the mystery make for a very satisfying read. The book is fast-paced and will draw you in immediately!