Friday, July 17, 2015

Review of In The Wind by Barbara Fister (St Martins Press, 2008)

After ten years working for the Chicago Police Department Anni Koskinen quit after testifying against a fellow cop whose actions had left a young man brain damaged.  Having set herself up as a PI she’s so far only had one job - finding the teenage daughter of her best friend - and has spent most of her time renovating her apartment.  When a local priest asks her to drive a quiet, well-liked church worker out of town she accepts the job without realising that she’s aiding a fugitive escape.  Rosa Saenz was once an active member of a radical arm of the American Indian Movement and is wanted for the murder of an FBI agent in 1972.  That agent was the father of her mentor, now also working for the FBI, and whose daughter she’d located.  Despite his personal investment in the case he doesn’t counter his wife and daughter’s encouragement for Anni to work for Rosa’s defence team.  The Feds and local cops are not so understanding, and nor is a group of white supremacists who are waging their own battle with the American Indian Movement.  Despite the age and obvious problems associated with the case, the Feds seem overly keen to capture and prosecute Rosa.  With tension rising in the city concerning post 9/11 policing and civil liberties, Anni finds herself battling to discover the truth against diminishing odds of success.

There is lots to like about Barbara Fister’s In The Wind - a strong, likeable lead character in Anni Koskinen, nice historical contextualisation, its social commentary on policing in the US post 9/11 and tensions around civil rights, and its engaging storyline.  This is a novel very much of its time, capturing the social and racial divisions of American society and the divided geographies of a US city.  And whilst it’s a crime thriller it takes a different path to most by portraying an alternative perspective from the typical cop or federal agency point of view.  The result is a subtle but stinging critique of heavy-handed, strong-arm, politically motivated policing, and series of interesting connections to the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s.  From the very start Fister ratchets up the tension and then keeps it taut throughout as Anni pings from one crisis to another, tries to track down clues, and to maintain fraught relationships.  Whilst the solution to the puzzle is telegraphed from a very long way out, the tale remains gripping and the pages kept turning.  Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable, politically inflected and thought provoking, crime thriller and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Through the Cracks.


Unknown said...

Thanks for introducing me to an author that I have overlooked. Now, if I am lucky, I might be able to find the book in my library. Again, thanks!

Rob Kitchin said...

R.T. Yes, worth tracking down. Hopefully your library has or you can get through Amazon marketplace.