Anni Koskinen resigned from the Chicago Police Department after testifying against a fellow officer and finding she no longer had the support of her colleagues. She has obtained a private investigator’s license, though hasn’t yet put it to much use, when she is asked by a local priest to help a woman called Rosa Saenz. However it turns out the FBI believe Rosa is responsible for the murder of one of their agents in the 1970’s when she was a member of a radical group in the American-Indian Movement. In a further complication for Anni, the agent that Rosa is accused of murdering is the father of her good friend Jim Tilquist. While Anni becomes aware of inconsistencies in the FBI’s case against Rosa she is also aware of the impact that revealing these might have on the Tilquists who are experiencing additional hardships due to the mental illness of their teenage daughter.
Too often books that try to explore political themes get bogged down by those issues and forget that the primary aim of fiction is to entertain but In The Wind is a thoroughly engaging example of how to write political themed fiction properly. The ripping yarn, which I devoured in two sittings, does a great job of depicting the inevitable tug-of-war between police and the communities they are charged with protecting by offering characters with a range of beliefs and ways of handling complex and sensitive issues. While it’s not too difficult to discern the author’s overall leanings I liked the fact the book wasn’t a diatribe for or against one particular stance but rather explored the dangers of extremism on either end of the scale.
It’s probably unavoidable that Anni Koskinen will be compared to other female PI’s like Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone but she is well able to hold her own in that company. She has an intriguing, believable back-story that reveals the reasons behind her strong relationships with her autistic brother Martin and the Tilquist family but Fister has also left enough gaps to fill in later books should she be so inclined. Anni is tenacious, caring and principled and I liked her very much. The rest of the novel is populated by equally engaging characters and it will be interesting to see which of these continue in what I hope will become a long series.
Ultimately though In The Wind is first and foremost a great story, with tension building nicely towards a surprising but believable ending. The intertwining storylines from past and present are both entertaining and thought-provoking and make for a highly recommended first novel in a series. Fortunately for me the second book was released earlier this year and is now making its way to me in the belly of a plane.
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In The Wind has also been reviewed at Petrona
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My rating 4/5
Publisher St Martin’s Minotaur 
Length 308 pages
Source I bought it second hand