Out of Mind

Somehow Out of Mind, the sequel to Falling Off Air, slipped my attention when it was released in 2005. Catherine Sampson has gone on to write thrillers set in Beijing, where she resides, but these two books are set in London and feature BBC journalist, Robin Ballantyne.

I was so enraptured with Falling Off Air that I included it in our bookclub selections that year. It has an unusual opening. Robin, a single mother to newborn twins, is having a wind down at the end of the day, looking out her parlour window,when a body drops out of the sky and lands in the street. She races outside only to realize that her front door has locked behind her. Frantic, she pounds heedlessly on doors trying to get help. How could I not want to know how Sampson was going to follow that up.

When I conjure up the writers who brilliantly incorporate children into their books, with all the messiness and inconvenience they entail, especially with a developing love interest, Catherine Sampson, Rafaella Barker (Hens Dancing, Summertime), and Ayelet Waldman (The Mommy-Track Mysteries, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) come to mind. These are the writers who can balance a child with a leaky diaper in one hand and a career in the other. They know instinctively how to mother as well as how to write and are not the least bit phased about a child wailing over an important business call.

Sampson writes catchy first chapters. Like something out of a nightmare dream sequence where you've got to run but your legs won't work, Out of Mind begins in a bucolic country setting with a BBC photographer who has witnessed all the horrors of the world, about to experience her own.

Robin Ballantyne's twins are now three years old and the crusty detective, Tom Finney, who investigated the case in Falling Off Air, is still hanging around, despite his lack of enthusiasm for the twins. The tartness of his reluctance nicely balances Robin's sweetness. Her first priority is her children and he wants to be part of her life, so ... Proving that opposites do attract, in fiction as well as life.

Great Britain produces top-notch mystery writers. Maybe it's something in the genes. Whatever the reason, Catherine Sampson is part of that pool.