Barbara Fister
writer, reader, librarian, observer, curmudgeon-at-large

Some time ago, when I was preparing for promotion, a member of the committee asked me to describe my research agenda. That was the first time it occurred to me that I was expected to have an actual plan. Since then I've tried to find the thread that runs through my various interests: crime fiction, popular literacy, the social nature of reading and research, where publishing is going (and where it should go), and how anxiety shapes what we think about social issues. What ties these interests together is my curiosity about how various media shape our perception of the world and how we individually make sense of it.

about my fiction | other writing | what I'm reading | teaching and speaking | contact me

After starting out with the Golden Age mysteries my mother read voraciously, I detoured into darkness, first with a Russian Literature major (Dostoevsky swept me off my adolescent feet), then thanks to discovering contemporary crime fiction through writers like Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos. I have published three mysteries and am working on another one featuring Chicago PI Anni Koskinen. All of these stories are about how crime taps into our deepest anxieties as a society and the lingering effects of crime on communities.

Through the Cracks (Minotaur, 2010)
In her second appearance, Anni Koskinen is hired by a the victim in a notorious and racially-charged rape case after the man arrested for the crime has had his sentence overturned. At the same time, the disappearance of a young white woman and the arrest of a an undocumented Latino man has Chicago on edge. This investigation into a series of rapes is more broadly an examination of violence against women and inquiry into race and the criminal justice system.

"Fister is a master of plotting and pacing . . . first-rate." Steve Weinberg, The Star Tribune
Packs a real punch. It will appeal to Sara Paretsky fans and mystery readers who long for tough and savvy female investigators." Library Journal
Read an excerpt
More about Through the Cracks

Available in hardcover and ebook formats and from libraries

In the Wind (Minotaur, 2010)
A woman who turns up at Anni Koskinen's door, asking for a ride out of town, turns out to be wanted by the FBI for the 1972 murder of an agent who was investigating a radical offshoot of the American Indian Movement. Anni’s investigation into crimes of the past throws her in the path of a no-holds-barred federal effort to find and convict the fugitive.
Drawing on parallels between counterintelligence practices of the Vietnam War era and today’s hostile climate for civil liberties, In the Wind gathers gale-force strength as the events of the past collide with the present – and, for Anni, the political becomes all too personal.   

"Barbara Fister is the heir apparent to Sara Paretsky.  In the Wind is an intriguing mystery, filled with great characters, an interesting and needed perspective on the city of Chicago, and a strong grounding in the politics and history of the past thirty years. Read it. You'll love it."
Kris Nelscott, Edgar and Shamus award nominated author of the Smokey Dalton series 
"an understated crime fiction gem . . . a wildly thought-provoking whodunnit." Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune
Read an excerpt
More about In the Wind
available in hardcover from selected stores, in a DIY trade paperback, and from libraries

On Edge (Dell, 2002)
A flip of a coin sends Konstantin Slovo, a troubled Chicago cop, eastbound on I-90 until he comes to a small town in Maine that is experiencing a nightmare. Nearly twenty years ago, an investigation into allegations of child abuse spiraled out of control, ending without convictions - leaving the community scarred by suspicion, distrust, and anger. Slovo, all too experienced with crimes against children, arrives in Brimsport just as a search is on for a missing girl, the third child to be abducted and murdered in recent months. He's drawn into the race to stop it from happening again - and to end the horror before the town tears itself apart. Because whoever is behind these killings knows Brimsport's tortured past and is using its worst fears to push it over the edge.

"On Edge is a knockout thriller." John Orr, San Jose Mercury News
"Just the paperback to browse when your plane enters a zone of turbulence and the pilot turns on the fasten-seat-belts sign." Eugen Weber, Los Angeles Times
more about On Edge 
available as a mass market paperback used, in ebook formats, and from libraries

what I'm reading 
I inherited my mother's insatiable appetite for reading, and like her tend to choose mysteries over other genres. I write reviews for Reviewing the Evidence and I keep track of what I've been reading at LibraryThing.

columns, blog posts, reviews, and articles
In the last couple of years, I have written two weekly columns: Peer to Peer Review for Library Journal's Academic Newswire and Library Babel Fish for Inside Higher Ed. I also blog regularly about Scandinavian crime fiction. You can follow my new columns via FriendFeed or browse all my publications on my CV; here's a sample of articles. 

teaching and speaking
books and culture (interim experience course offered in odd years)
information fluency (spring semester, annually)
reading workshop (spring semester, annually

Assorted presentations and workshops can be found on my CV; here is a sample. 

      contact me
      I'm happy to speak at libraries or events, schedule permitting.
      by e-mail / on friendfeed / on facebook / on twitter / at librarything / on flickr

      The contents of this website, unless otherwise indicated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.