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by Catherine Sampson
Mysterious Press, August 2005
320 pages
ISBN: 0892968141

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There are two things I hate in crime fiction -- religion and children. We're more or less spared the former in OUT OF MIND, although the book's most annoying character (and there's quite a lot of competition for that role) is in love with a Catholic priest, but there's a surfeit of the latter. And you know, it's too much information already.

I read FALLING OFF AIR, the first book in the series, almost solely because one of the characters had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which I suffered from some years ago. The character had a fairly minor role in that book, but it was yet again a case of too much information on the illness.

The character, Lorna, has more of a role in the new book, and a thoroughly infuriating one at that. Mind you, she can wait her turn in the queue, because most of the rest of the paper-thin cast are either wimps or obnoxious idiots.

And that goes for the leading character, TV documentary maker Robin Ballantyne. She's still persona non grata after the events of FALLING OFF AIR, but has managed to persuade her bosses to let her make a programme about missing people. She's particularly hooked by the disappearance of a colleague, camerawoman Melanie Jacobs.

Her investigations bring her into conflict with a group of army veterans, as well as with her policeman love interest Finney. Robin wanders vaguely through London and even Cambodia (as you do) in her search for a story -- although you never feel this is a programme likely to make it onto the screen.

The book is a sort of suspense thriller which drifts along in a languid way. It's readable enough if you can ignore the infuriating characters -- most of them Robin's dysfunctional family or her colleagues. I'd like to nominate her two brats, her estranged father and the ghastly sister Lorna as the characters you'd most like to see sent out to sea without a paddle.

One thing that consistently grated was the references to Robin's employer, the Corporation. One can only assume it's a thinly-disguised BBC, but instead it sounded like something out of 1984.

I read an ARC of the American edition and was most aggravated to find the book had become the victim of patchy Americanisation. There appeared to be no logic to what had been changed and what hadn't, and in the end it only served to make the book even more distant than it already was.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, August 2005

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