She's Leaving Home

Mulholland: Little, Brown. Feb. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780316246842. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316246835. M
OrangeReviewStarWho were the Beatles? That's the kind of embarrassing question that might arise if this debut mystery by veteran British journalist Shaw should fall into the wrong hands. It's London, 1968. A young woman's naked body is found in a derelict stretch of otherwise leafy Maida Vale. It's steps away from the EMI recording studio made famous by the Beatles. Was she one of the many groupies who haunted the district? The case is shunted to DS Cathal Breen, known widely and snidely as "Paddy." Of late, he's been going through a rough patch. He's been ostracized for having seemingly abandoned an injured colleague. He recently lost his father and broken his collarbone rescuing a kitten. And he's partnered with a terminally chirpy young policewoman, this at a time when policewomen were not allowed to drive while on duty and were automatically assigned the kitchen detail. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see what's coming.
VERDICT This outstanding novel is a reminder of the multiple joys of a straight-ahead, by-the-numbers police procedural with quirky characters, crisp dialog, and, in this case, a healthy dose of period detail (ten-shilling notes and carbon paper make cameo appearances) involving the music scene as well as politics and immigration in those politically incorrect times. Spread the word so that this satisfying debut will end up in the right hands. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/13.]

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