She’s Leaving Home

Written by William Shaw
Review by James Hawking

Although primarily a police procedural, this novel, set in 1968, successfully portrays a rapidly changing British culture. A young woman’s body is found in the area near the Beatles’ Abbey Road Studios. Detective Sergeant Cathal Woods, under a cloud for having run away while his partner was being attacked with a knife, must work with Helen Tozer at a time when female police officers were an unwelcome novelty.  The investigations was briefly interrupted when Woods fell out of a tree while trying to rescue a cat, giving his enemies on the police force still another reason to make fun of him.

The dead girl was one of the groupies hanging around in the hope of getting a glimpse of John, Paul, George or Ringo. The investigation eventually involves runaway lesbian squatters, corrupt policemen, supporters of Biafra’s attempt to win independence from Nigeria, and Beatles fan clubs. As the questioning broadens, we find ourselves reaching conclusions which we constantly re-evaluate as the detectives explore surprising leads. The characterization of the victim, the suspects and the witnesses leads to the unraveling of the mystery. Tozer eventually earns Woods’ respect and more. Nimble writing helps move the story at a fast pace while developing sympathetic characters and providing enough clues for those readers intent on solving the mystery.