Runtime cover (woman standing under a brightly-lit dome)Runtime (Gazornum 2023)
On the run from sinister forces, a woman stumbles into a new role, taking on the identity of a desperately broke English PhD who had just landed a job at a small college in rural Minnesota. When her students unearth material in the archives that throws the college into a culture war, it leaves her exposed and vulnerable. Should she run again, or tell her story and fight?

Inspired by the Cambridge Analytica scandal (among other things), this standalone is available under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC) in HTML, PDF, and EPUB formats (which now works with Kindle) as well as in print from Lulu (which costs money for printing and shipping). Thanks to the Minnesota Library Publishing Project for  making PressBooks available to state residents and to Marc-Olivier Jodoin for the cover photo.

In the Dark coverIn the Dark (Gazornum 2020)
A pair of sandals and a small boy’s shirt discovered in the room of a deceased hoarder brings back memories of an unsolved case from Chicago P.I. Anni Koskinen’s past – and draws her into the disturbing world of an outsider artist. Does his artwork, full of gruesome imagery about violence literally ripped from the headlines, suggest the artist stepped across the border of his imaginary world into real-life murder? Already busy with a client whose schizophrenic son is on the run, chased by his own demons, Anni finds herself revisiting a case that she couldn’t close, seeking clues in the eerie, troubling, and strangely beautiful secret realm of an eccentric man who everyone assumed was harmless.

This third mystery in the Anni Koskinen series is offered on the web free of charge through the Minnesota Library Publishing Project. Also freely available for download in PDF, EPUB, and mobi formats. The cover photo was taken by Damon Hall, made available under the Unsplash license.

If Then Else (Gazornum 2016)
What are you going to do when your doofus of a big brother gets himself arrested on a terrorism charge? If you’re a young coder with a sense of justice and a passion for privacy, whatever it takes to save him from prison. This open access young adult novel – inspired by the real-life stings that the FBI has used to entrap unwary would-be dissidents and by the growth of the surveillance-industrial complex – was serialized online in February 2016 and is available in html, mobi, ePub, PDF, and print on demand formats under a Creative Commons license.

“This book is a great short #cyberpunk novel fit for the current age of surveillance we’re living. The story comes in a-la Doctorow, fast-paced and involving the broader consequences that a surveillance-laden, authority-oriented and fear-driven society has to deal with, while referencing many real-life examples.” Klaus Jónsson Zimmermann at

ttcThrough 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 an undocumented Latino has Chicago on edge. This investigation into a series of rapes is more broadly an examination of violence against women and a look at the intersection of 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

itwIn the Wind (Minotaur, 2008)
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 had been pursuing radical members 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, 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
download the free DIY amateur audio version.

oeOn 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 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

Header photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1942, via Library of Congress.