cover image FALLING OFF AIR


Catherine Sampson, . . Mysterious, $22.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-813-8

At the start of journalist Sampson's smooth debut novel, Robin Ballantyne, a single mother of infant twins, sees a neighbor she knows by sight plunge to her death from her South London mansion during a storm. Was it murder, suicide or an accident? Ballantyne is stunned to learn that the victim is none other than Paula Carmichael, a driven, charismatic gadfly, the social conscience of the United Kingdom. Ballantyne, a television producer on extended maternity leave, discovers that some of her colleagues, including the father of her children, had been filming a documentary about Carmichael that was abruptly, puzzlingly scuttled. When Ballantyne herself becomes a suspect in the mess after a second death, she traces the crimes to a halfway house in foggy, off-season Cornwall. The author gives scant attention to setting and the plot unfolds slowly at first, but about midway through, the pace picks up and the last quarter is a first-rate read. As the mother of young children, Ballantyne makes for an unusual sleuth: how many detectives need to first hire a babysitter before going out to save the world? Fans of Ayelet Waldman's Mommy-Track mystery series will want to check out this thriller. Agent, Amanda Preston. Mystery Guild Featured Alternate. (Aug. 26)