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Val McDermid. St. Martin's Press, $17.95 (211pp) ISBN 978-0-312-09836-0

``The Case of the Missing Conservatories'' is what lively and likeable Kate Brannigan, the English detective from Manchester introduced in Dead Beat , calls this, her second adventure, which founders a bit in tangled plot lines. Hired by conservatory builder Ted Barlow, whose bank is refusing him further credit, Kate tracks down the clients who contracted for the glass additions, which, once constructed (and used to support remortgaging arrangements), were mysteriously dismantled. Then Kate's best friend, who recently paid a sizable down payment on land which turns out to have already been sold, asks for help. Kate finds her lawyer at his home, decked out in woman's clothing and quite dead. A third plot thread involves Kate in interminable surveillance gigs on a case of industrial espionage. None of these pursuits gains much momentum, which is a pity, because Kate is a breath of fresh air, Manchester a fine mystery locale and Richard, Kate's dope-smoking, rock journalist boyfriend, pleasant company too. Less plot and more Kate would likely suit most readers next time around. (Sept.)