Bannister, Jo 1951–
Bannister, Jo 1951–
Born July 31, 1951, in Rochdale, Lancashire, England; daughter of Alan (in transport) and Marjorie Bannister. Education: Attended grammar schools and technical secondary schools in Birmingham, Nottingham, and Bangor, Northern Ireland. Politics: Liberal. Hobbies and other interests: Horseback riding, archery, astronomy, archaeology, sailing.
Home and office—Millisle, County Down, Northern Ireland. Agent—Gregory & Company, 3 Barb Mews, Hammersmith, London W6 7PA, England.
County Down Spectator, Bangor, Northern Ireland, reporter, 1969-74, deputy editor, 1975-83, editor, 1983-87; Belfast Newsletter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, feature writer, 1974-75; editor of Newtownards Spectator, 1983-87.
Amnesty International, International League for the Protection of Horses, Worldwide Fund for Nature, Society of Authors, Ulster Rural Riders Association.
Catherine Pakenham Award, Fleet Street Publishers, 1972; runner-up, British Press Award, 1974; Northern Ireland Press Award, 1981; runner-up, Ellery Queen Readers Award, 1992, and nomination, Edgar Allan Poe Award, 1993, both for short story "Howler"; recipient of British Press Awards; has been recognized by the Royal Society of Arts.
The Matrix, R. Hale (London, England), 1981.
The Winter Plain, R. Hale (London, England), 1982.
A Cactus Garden, R. Hale (London, England), 1983.
"CASTLEMERE" POLICE PROCEDURALS; NOVELS
A Bleeding of Innocents, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.
A Taste for Burning, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1995.
No Birds Sing, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1996.
Broken Lines, Macmillan (London, England), 1998, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.
The Hireling's Tale, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.
Changelings, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.
"ROSIE HOLLAND" CRIME SERIES
The Primrose Convention, Macmillan (London, England), 1997, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1998.
The Primrose Switchback, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 1999.
"BRODIE FARRELL" MYSTERY SERIES
Echoes of Lies, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001.
True Witnesses, St. Martin's (New York, NY) 2002.
Reflections, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2003.
The Depths of Solitude, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2004.
Breaking Faith, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2005.
Requiem for a Dealer, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2006.
Flawed, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2007.
Striving with Gods, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.
Mosaic, R. Hale (London, England), 1986, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987.
The Mason Codex, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988.
Gilgamesh, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.
The Going Down of the Sun, Piatkus Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.
Shards, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990, republished as Critical Angle, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 1999.
Death and Other Lovers, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
The Lazarus Hotel, Macmillan (London, England), 1996, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1997.
The Fifth Cataract, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2006.
The Tinderbox Severn house (Sutton, Surrey, England) 2007.
Also author of short stories. Bannister's works have been translated into French, Danish, Swedish, German, Italian, Polish, Japanese, and Norwegian. Contributor to Ellery Queen Magazine/USA. The author's manuscripts are collected at the Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University, MA.
Jo Bannister has "a gift for precise and evocative language" and is the author of "bold and original works," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer writing about her 1996 novel The Lazarus Hotel. Bannister has written numerous crime novels, including several which fall into the "Castlemere" and "Brodie Farrell" police procedural series. The former series debuted in 1993 with A Bleeding of Innocents. In that title and those that followed, crime is investigated by an "appealing police trio," as described a Publishers Weekly contributor in a review of No Birds Sing. "Bannister [brilliantly] depicts her force coping with several major crimes at once," remarked the Publishers Weekly reviewer, who praised the characters' "depth and intensity" in the "extremely satisfying" novel. The three detectives—Superintendent Frank Shapiro, Sergeant Cal Donovan, and Inspector Liz Graham—"make interesting things happen," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic, who went on to applaud Bannister's ability to give "life" to even the "most banal supporting characters" in Charisma, a "tangy, gritty tale."
A subsequent title in Bannister's "Castlemere" series is 1999's The Hireling's Tale. Of this "expertly crafted entry," a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote: "Bannister deftly examines the dedication and determination of three types of hirelings—a prostitute, an assassin and a British police officer…. [She] pours on the tension." The Hireling's Tale is "character-based," according to Library Journal critic Rex E. Klett, who positively assessed this novel and, in an earlier Library Journal review, Bannister's Broken Lines. Specifically, Klett praised Broken Lines as "a solid [work]" and declared Bannister "a seasoned veteran." Broken Lines, a "gratifying drama," according to a Publishers Weekly critic, is a "brilliantly plotted addition to a reliable British procedural series."
Bannister continued the series with the year 2000 title, Changelings, in which the author's trio of police personnel must find a madman before his poisoned products tricks prove deadly. Jell-O in commercial yogurt and in a school's water system show how lethal this trickster can be, and when a cholera victim is admitted to the local hospital, the victim of tainted medicine, the local population goes into a near panic. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that "lovers of police procedurals will appreciate the good detective work that relies on intellect as much as muscle power."
In 1998 Bannister debuted a new series of crime novels featuring Rosie Holland, an advice columnist who used to work as a pathologist. The series protagonist is introduced in The Primrose Convention, a story which has Holland investigating the disappearance of the brother of one of her readers. The second entry in Bannister's "Rosie Holland" crime series is The Primrose Switchback, in which Holland's "tough-love" column gives rise to her involvement in a television show and the murder of someone working on that show. Stuart Miller, assessing The Primrose Switchback for Booklist, called Bannister's "Rosie Holland" stories "absorbing and entertaining." Miller determined that "this [crime] series is distinguished by Bannister's ability to combine cozy and hard-boiled elements."
Brodie Farrell, the protagonist of Bannister's next series, makes her living finding things—the perfect site for a rock star's home, rare out of print books, long-lost aunts, and just about anything else that people need to have found. In the first novel in the series, Echoes of Lies, Brodie is hired to find a man who appears in a photograph that she is given. She is shocked when she discovers that the man, who is named Daniel, has been tortured and nearly killed. Brodie becomes entangled with the psychologically shattered young man as she investigates the case and tries to figure out why he was attacked. "As usual, the author skillfully juxtaposes a complex puzzle with insightful character studies," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Daniel reappears in several later "Brodie Farrell" mysteries, including the third, Reflections. In that novel Daniel is put in charge of caring for two sisters, eleven and fourteen years old, whose father has just disappeared after allegedly killing their mother. Brodie has been hired to find the girls' aunt, a task that takes her away for a large portion of the story, and she hopes that in her absence Daniel will be able to draw on his own experiences of being a victim of violence to help the girls cope. This works out somewhat better than Daniel's attempts to investigate the crime himself, which nearly lead to his being killed. The book is "a stunning psychological thriller that will keep readers guessing from page one," Emily Melton wrote in Booklist, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the "suspense builds gradually" towards a "tense final scene."
The series goes forward with The Depths of Solitude, in which the protagonist must not only deal with the disappearance of Daniel, but also with the unwanted attentions of a stalker. However, as the attentions of the anonymous stalker grow increasing violent, Brodie is led to wonder if this mysterious person is none other than Daniel, for a rift has grown between them since the incidents in Reflections. For Library Journal contributor Rex E. Klett, this was a "winning British police procedural fraught with emotion." Further praise came from a Publishers Weekly contributor who observed: "Bannister skillfully ups the anxiety as Brodie is rendered helpless and events hurtle toward a pounding climax." And for a Kirkus Reviews critic, this was an "object lesson in how many different kinds of suspense, from whodunit puzzles to moral dilemmas to races against the clock, can be squeezed within a single binding."
In the 2005 series addition, Breaking Faith, Bannister has her protagonist, Farrell, working for Eric Chandos, an entertainment manager. Her job: to find an appropriate house for Chandos's client, rock star Jared Fry. This is not an easy task as it turns out, but finally she finds the right place only to have things fall apart when a swimming pool excavation uncovers a skeleton. Farrell's sometimes paramour, Detective Jack Deacon is called in to investigate, tracing the skeleton's identity to a missing female rock singer with ties to both Chandos and Fry. For Booklist contributor Melton, the "taut story, an intriguing plot (despite some preachiness), strong characters, and some unusual twists add up to a winner from genre veteran Bannister." Klett, writing in Library Journal, also had praise, calling "Brodie Farrell" "a steadily engaging series." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic felt this book was a "brilliant example of how to bring a genre cliche to life."
Requiem for a Dealer, again finds Daniel in trouble after hitting a young woman, though not seriously, with his car. This draws both Daniel and Brodie Farrell into an old murder and current drug dealing. Detective Jack Deacon complicates matters with his own investigation of the trendy new drug, Scram. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found this work "riveting," while a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded, "Bannister excels at juggling her main characters' quirks, nuances and seething lapses of loyalty." Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Richard Lipez noted that "Bannister's is one of the quirkier series to come out of a part of the world where quirkiness is a kind of regional religion."
Bannister has not restricted herself to writing "Rosie Holland," "Castlemere," or "Brodie Farrell" stories. She has penned many other crime novels as well as thrillers and science fiction works. Bannister's earliest books included several science fiction titles published in England during the early 1980's, among them The Matrix.
Shards, first released in 1990, is just one of Bannister's novels that has elements of a thriller. In 1999 it was republished as Critical Angle. The story features a photojournalist who, still suffering from a gun shot injury he received while on assignment in Amsterdam, is focused on "a terrorist training camp" and gets "unwittingly" entangled with "Israeli intelligence," according to Booklist contributor David Pitt, who judged Critical Angle to be an "excellent novel" with an "unclassifiable mix of smooth storytelling and strong central characters."
Bannister's 2006 novel The Fifth Cataract is a "taut and gripping … high-octane adventure thriller that's virtually unputdownable," Emily Melton declared in Booklist. This novel follows Clio Marsh, a former doctor who is now a writer, as she finds herself drawn into a mystery in the sparsely populated Norfolk marshlands. Clio went to Norfolk for survivalist training, which is part of her research for her next book, but the training turns out to be more dangerous than she had anticipated. After one of the students becomes ill, Clio realizes that the owners of a local fertilizer manufacturing plant are behaving very suspiciously—and things only get worse for Clio and the other students from there. "Readers who like their adventures hard-edged will be satisfied," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Bannister continued her stand-alone thrillers with the 2007 title The Tinderbox, in which she explores the world of homeless runaways. When Laurence Schofield's daughter Cassie disappears, he refuses to give up hope of ever finding her. After six years he is still looking, and then he watches a television documentary about homeless children and thinks he sees a picture of Cassie. This leads him on a journey into the underground world of the homeless, searching for his daughter and aided by a young homeless boy named Jonah. Booklist contributor Melton remarked on the novel's "spellbinding plot that grabs the reader from page one." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Bannister once again proves herself a skilled storyteller in this poignant, memorable story."
Bannister once told CA: "Too many ‘serious’ writers look down on the entertainment aspect of their own and other people's work. But entertainment is the writer's side of the contract; it is what he supplies to a reader to make him want to wade through all these words and ideas. It's the rent he pays for a space in the reader's mind. If he begrudges or stints that, he's likely to get evicted."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, spring, 1994, review of Charisma, p. 239.
Booklist, August, 1994, review of Charisma, p. 2025; June 1, 1999, David Pitt, review of Critical Angle, p. 1799; February 15, 2000, Stuart Miller, review of The Primrose Switchback, p. 1087; November 15, 2002, Barbara Bibel, review of True Witness, p. 579; November 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of Reflections, p. 482; July 1, 2005, Emily Melton, review of Breaking Faith, p. 1904; November 15, 2005, Emily Melton, review of The Fifth Cataract, p. 28; December 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of The Tinderbox, p. 24.
Drood Review of Mystery, June 21, 1981, review of The Matrix; September 1, 2000, review of Changelings, p. 13; November 1, 2000, review of Changelings, p. 10.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1984, review of Striving with Gods; July 15, 1990, review of Shards, p. 966; March 1, 1991, review of Death and Other Lovers, p. 285; July 1, 1993, review of A Bleeding of Innocents, p. 818; July 1, 1994, review of Charisma, p. 886; July 15, 1996, review of No Birds Sing; February 15, 1998, review of The Primrose Convention; January 15, 1999, review of Broken Lines; October 15, 2002, review of True Witness, p. 1504; September 15, 2004, review of The Depths of Solitude, p. 892; June 15, 2005, review of Breaking Faith, p. 664; October 1, 2006, review of Requiem for a Dealer, p. 988.
Library Journal, March 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Broken Lines, p. 114; December, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of The Hireling's Tale, p. 191; December, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Echoes and Lies, p. 178; December, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of True Witness, p. 183; December 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of The Depths of Solitude, p. 95; July 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Breaking Faith, p. 57.
MBR Bookwatch, January 1, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of The Depths of Solitude.
New York Times Book Review, September 18, 1994, review of Charisma. p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1984, review of Striving with Gods, p. 55; November 14, 1986, Sybil Steinberg, review of Mosaic, p. 51; September 22, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Going Down of the Sun, p. 41; July 26, 1993, review of A Bleeding of Innocents, p. 60; July 25, 1994, review of Charisma. p. 36; April 3, 1995, review of A Taste for Burning, p. 48; June 24, 1996, review of No Birds Sing, p. 48; June 16, 1997, review of The Lazarus Hotel, p. 47; February 22, 1999, review of Broken Lines, p. 70; November 29, 1999, review of The Hireling's Tale, p. 56; October 16, 2000, review of Changelings, p. 52; November 19, 2001, review of Echoes of Lies, p. 51; November 18, 2002, review of True Witness, p. 44; November 3, 2003, review of Reflections, p. 57; November 8, 2004, review of Depths of Solitude, p. 39; November 28, 2005, review of The Fifth Cataract, p. 27; September 18, 2006, review of Requiem for a Dealer, p. 38; December 11, 2006, review of The Tinderbox, p. 48.
Washington Post, October 21, 1984, Jean M. White, review of Striving with Gods, p. 11.
Washington Post Book World, February 4, 2007, Richard Lipez, review of Requiem for a Dealer, p. 11.
Wilson Library Bulletin, December, 1984, Kathleen Maio, review of Striving with Gods, p. 279.
Gregory & Company Web site,http://www.gregoryandcompany.co.uk/ (May 15, 2007), "Jo Bannister."
New Mystery Reader,http://www.newmysteryreader.com/ (May 15, 2007), Stephanie Padilla, review of The Depths of Solitude.
Tangled Web UK,http://www.twbooks.co.uk/ (May 15, 2007), "Jo Bannister."