Book Review: In The Wind by Barbara Fister

Fister  In The Wind by Barbara Fister, St Martin's Minotaur, 2008.

Anni Koskinen resigned from the Chicago police department after testifying against a fellow-officer for beating an unarmed youth. Although she feels she did the right thing in telling the truth, her colleagues fail to provide back-up when she’s called out, so she decides the risks to her safety aren’t worth it. At loose ends, Anni spends her time renovating her house and working when she can as a private investigator. The action begins when the local priest calls Anni and asks her to help a parishioner and volunteer helper, Rosa Saenz.  When Rosa turns up at Anni’s door, she asks for a lift to Minnesota. Anni agrees, but before they get very far, disaster strikes.

It turns out that Rosa is suspected of shooting and killing Arne Tilquist, a senior FBI investigator, back in the late 1960s. At that time, Tilquist was head of a unit which monitored activist groups, of which there were many, mainly anti-Vietnam war, but also supporting plenty of other ‘radical’ and fringe causes. One of these groups was an extremist breakaway movement fighting for the rights of Native Americans. In one 
Coolscrapbook  disastrous raid led by Tilquist, all the members of this group were killed except one. When Tilquist himself was found shot to death a little later, this activist became the prime suspect but was never found.

Forty years later, in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities, the patriot act is once again threatening civil liberties on a similar scale. Anni is hired by a radical lawyer who specialises in Native American issues and who is convinced of Rosa’s innocence, to dig into the old case to find out who was really responsible for the Tilquist shooting. Most of the book from this point is taken up with Anni’s quest, which she has to carry out amid threats and escalating harassment from the FBI, and with little support from the police, apart from one apparently nice cop who seems very taken with her. 

In the Wind is a fascinating novel: it reminded me of reading fiction about teenage rebellions many years ago, in particular the excellent Vida, by Marge Piercy. The crime plot is very well constructed and the environs of the poorer areas of Chicago, where Anni lives, and the characters who live there, are very well done. The political and personal heart of the novel is committed and passionate. Less successful, I think, is Anni’s back story, which is exceedingly convoluted and takes most of the first 150 pages of the book to tell. Anni’s personal history and life is interwoven with the case in many ways, but I 
Fisterpbfelt that these could have been conveyed more succinctly to improve the pace of the first chunk of the book. For sure, though, Anni is a fascinating and well-developed character, whose life, family and friends contain plenty of rich fodder for future outings. In the Wind is a very good read indeed: if you enjoy series such as Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, or Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone,  you will certainly find a great deal to like in Anni Koskinen, who can more than hold her own in this company.

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The author's In The Wind scrapbook of reviews, interviews and other material about the book.

In The Wind is available in paperback edition as a Print on Demand book at Lulu. The author writes: "I decided to make this paperback edition available just as the sequel, Through the Cracks, hits bookstore shelves so that people reluctant to invest in hardcover prices will have a less-expensive starting place for the series. Also, it was a kick doing my own cover and page design. [Petrona note: this cover design is much better than the one on the St Martin's edition!] All profits from this limited-edition paperback version of In the Wind (originally published by Minotaur in 2008) will be donated to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill."  See more at the author's website.

Read another review of In the Wind at Reviewing the Evidence. Reviewing the Evidence has also recently run a review of the sequel, Through the Cracks.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: In The Wind by Barbara Fister

  1. Goodness me,Maxine!! I remember reading Vida by Marge Piercy–
    more years ago than I care to recall!

  2. I did like “In the Wind,” and look forward to Barbara Fister’s new book. I had not thought of “Vida,” in years but I read that and many other books by Marge Piercy. I hadn’t compared the two but can see your point. I did mentally compare the main character to V.I. Warshawski, who is my favorite woman detective.

  3. Oh, thank you for reviewing this one! I have been meaning to try Barbara´s book, but somehow I nearly always end up buying British or Scandinavian books.
    Miriam grabbed the one by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and enjoyed it very much. She says I must read it soon and I mean to, but not until my exams are over.

  4. Maxine – I agree completely with Jose Ignacio. Your reviews are absolutely superb, and I’ve been wanting to read this one. Now I really want to. Can you please tell us your secret for fine reviews? ; )

  5. Again I am safe once again as I already have this one sitting on the TBR shelves but the reivew does make me want to read it sooner rather than later. I can also recommend Barbara Fister’s first book called ON EDGE (it’s not part of this series though).

  6. It was actually your review of On Edge that made me want to read this author, Bernadette! I bought it on the basis of your review. Then I saw Barbara’s post (linked in this post) about In The Wind/Through The Cracks (the one she asked us on FF about the title a while back), and thought I’d try this one first. On Edge is sitting on my shelf upstairs…..
    Thanks everyone for your kind comments about my reviews! I do try hard with them and it is such a buzz to receive such nice feedback, thank you all so much.

  7. Thanks for reading and reviewing it, Maxine – and for liking my DIY cover. A designer I am not, but it was fun to try, using nothing but free tools. Your criticism matches the reviewer at Kirkus, who thought there was too much backstory (“bloated” was the word used – well, it was Kirkus, famous for using le mot juste. Shortly thereafter they went out of business and are now supposedly back in business, but I haven’t seen it since.)
    You do write excellent reviews, and it’s a good thing because the traditional review sources (for the US pre-pub market, anyway) are going through difficult times. Library Journal and School Library Journal were on the chopping block when Reed Elsevier couldn’t find a buyer – they have just moved to a new, small owner and their website is all wonky until they sort things out. Publishers Weekly was also just sold off to a different small owner. And Booklist carries on, but it’s published by ALA, which has had to cut back on staff in a big way. I don’t know what librarians and booksellers in the UK use to be informed about new books in the pipeline, but these are standard and important tools and it’s scary to see them endangered.
    Euro Crime and reviewers like Bernadette and Glenn Harper and Ben Hunt and many of your faithful readers here do a tremendous service.

  8. Thank you so much, Barbara, for your lovely comment. I agree that (good) online reviews are very important to authors and publishers, especially when the content is free – if you do an internet search for an author/title these reviews tend to be high up in the “returns”. And there are so few proper reviews in mainstream national newspapers nowadays.
    I very much enjoyed the book and actually I really liked the back-story too! Looking forward to reading more about Anni.

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