cover image The Primrose Convention

The Primrose Convention

Jo Bannister. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-312-18157-4

The usually reliable Bannister (The Lazarus Hotel, 1997, and the Castlemere series) gets off to a surprisingly bland start in this kickoff of a new crime series. Her sleuth is advice columnist Rosie Holland, a rotund, tough-talking middle-aged woman living in Birmingham. Fiona Morris's bird-watching brother, Philip, has gone missing in the remote Hebrides islands off the coast of Scotland. She contacts Rosie, who turns to Arthur Prufrock, another ornithologist, who in turn brings along Shad Lucas, a young gardener and the reluctant possessor of psychic powers. This unlikely detecting team sets forth for Edinburgh and the offices of the British Trust for Wildlife, a bogus organization soon revealed as a front for immigration agents on the lookout for illegal aliens entering the country. Philip's lonely watching brief in the islands has clearly made him a witness to more than just nesting seabirds. Rosie is pleasant enough, although some readers might find her a bit too maternal and wise. And, although the pace picks up toward the end and the plot, once unfurled, is intriguing, the book suffers from the fact that so much of the suspense is backloaded. (Apr.)