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by Barbara Fister
Minotaur Books, May 2010
320 pages
ISBN: 0312374925

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Readers of Fister's IN THE WIND will be happy with the return of PI Anni Koskinen in this second social crime novel of the series. Fister lets new readers know that Koskinen had to leave the Chicago police force because of her acute sense of social justice. She broke the brotherhood code, testifying against a fellow officer and in doing so was shunned by her fellow officers.

In this new case, Koskinen takes on the seemingly impossible task of finding the rapist who viciously attacked her client in Lincoln Park twenty-three years ago. Jill McKenzie is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at a small Iowa college. Chase Taylor, the young man convicted of raping her, has recently been released from prison, having successfully appealed his wrongful conviction. McKenzie had actually identified him as her attacker but when she read the evidence supporting his case, she realized that he was innocent. With the help of her graduate students, she has been examining Cook County records of the victims of aggravated criminal assaults over the past decade. The research revealed many similarities in cases over several years, and most notably in an attack in Garfield Park four years ago. And now another young woman is missing, presumed dead. McKenzie approaches Anni to get to the bottom of these cases.

Fister interweaves many social issues in this novel, notably the violations of civil rights taking place as a result of new search and seizure policies directed against non-citizens. The pursuit of illegal immigrants is an important sub-plot in the novel. Of mixed heritage, Koskinen herself is roughed up when officers break into her house looking for an "alien." And there seems to be no doubt that questions of race affected Taylor's initial trial and conviction. In her pursuit of justice, Koskinen has to fight her way against the opposition of the state attorney's office which seems more concerned with protecting the reputation of the original prosecuting attorney, who is at the moment running for office, than in admitting the possibility of a serial rapist.

Although more than one reviewer has likened Fister's PI to Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski, I find that Fister presents us with Koskinen's own richly developed world peopled with interesting characters. Whether it in her interactions with her friends Thea and Harvey Adelma, the civil rights lawyers, or with Father Sikora whose church is providing sanctuary for victims of the government's current immigration policies, or in her work with teenage runaways and with her autistic brother Martin, Anni Koskinen comes across as a fully realized personality. THROUGH THE CRACKS is an engaging and complex read.

Ann Pearson is a photographer and retired college Humanities teacher who lives in Montreal

Reviewed by Ann Pearson, April 2010

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