Sunday, August 22, 2010

In the Wind by Barbara Fister

Protagonist: Anni Koskinen
Setting: Chicago
Rating: 4.6
In this first book in a new series, we meet Anni Koskinen, a former Chicago cop who left the force after she testified against a fellow officer who beat a kid, leaving him brain-damaged. While she may have done the right thing, other officers made her life difficult, so Anni's gone the private investigator route. She's not been at it long when a neighborhood priest asks Anni for help. Within a matter of hours, she's involved in a high-profile case, helping defend a woman, Rosa Saenz, a grandmotherly church worker the FBI says killed a federal agent in 1977. Saenz is really Verna Basswood, a former radical with an offshoot of the American Indian Movement and a fugitive since she was accused of the crime. But her lawyer, Anni and most of the community -- with the exception of law enforcement -- believe Basswood is innocent. To complicate matters, the man she's accused of killing, Arne Tilquist, was the father of one of Anni's closest friends.

Fister has been compared to another Chicago author, Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawsky). This is not overblown hype. Both have tough female P.I. characters, gripping writing and use the city to great effect, exploring the neighborhoods of the working class. In the Wind also tackles the subject of civil liberties, especially those of underrepresented groups, deftly. And Fister deals with issues of autism and bipolar disorder with sensitivity -- Anni's brother is autistic and another main character is a teenager with bipolar disorder. There's a lot, in fact, packed into this novel, but it doesn't slow down the plot.

The second in the series, Through the Cracks, was released this year. Hopefully, Fister will become another Paretsky -- with a long-running series to her name.

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