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Falling Off Air

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Robin Ballentyne, former award-winning television producer and the single mother of twin babies, is a compelling heroine in Falling Off Air, the first novel by journalist Catherine Sampson. Set in London, the story opens on an exhausted Robin struggling to get her children to bed during a thunderstorm. She believes she hears voices outside, and when she looks out the window, she sees the body of a woman hurtling toward the pavement below. At the dead woman’s side, Robin recognizes her as Paula Carmichael, the charismatic activist. No one knows if the death is a suicide or murder; but the police investigation leads back to a mystified Robin who finds herself a lead suspect in the affair. Apparently, she discovers, her ex-boyfriend has been closely connected with Carmichael. When someone using Robin’s car murders him, the stakes suddenly become higher as Robin finds herself and her children in danger.

Sampson handles both her plot and her characters with grace. Although the opening is somewhat slow, Sampson uses this section to introduce Robin’s situation and her family, an interesting set of folks, each with their own problems and sorrows. In addition, the pieces and parts of the plot all weave together well. It is Robin, however, who most rivets the reader’s attention: frazzled, funny, gutsy, and intelligent, Robin is utterly believable as a talented television producer, a devoted mother, and a savvy sleuth doggedly pursuing the truth.