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Home » Books & writing

Book Review: THE PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen

Submitted by on March 26, 2012 – 11:42 pm 8 Comments

After graduating from college without promising job prospects in the troubled economy, four friends decide to kidnap an anonymous, rich businessman for a modest ransom. Their reasoning:

“You get a junior VP at a Fortune 500 company, tell his wife to hand over a hundred grand in the next twenty-four hours, and she’ll do it without thinking. It’s an inconvenience at those stakes, not a crime.”

The first kidnapping goes so well, they do it again, moving from city to city, staying under the radar by only asking for mid-five-figure sums, saving up for when they can retire to the Maldives. But then they snatch the wrong guy, someone whose family would rather retaliate than pay up. The kidnappers panic, things go horribly wrong, and thus begins their nightmare that keeps going from oh, sh*t to we are so screwed.

Laukkanen kidnapped me on a Saturday afternoon, keeping me tied to the couch and making me eat saltines and cheese for dinner because I couldn’t stop reading to prepare a proper meal. His prose is propulsive, and his chapters end in a cliffhangery way that kept me flipping them pages. Arthur, Marie, Sawyer, and Mouse are kids who do foolish things, but they’re surprisingly sympathetic in Laukkanen’s hands. They’re loyal to each other and are good people at heart who just don’t know how else to attain The Dream. I couldn’t help wanting to see them get it—as long as no innocents got hurt.

And that’s why the novel also became problematic for me: I half-wanted the criminals to win. They’re more interesting and complex than the law enforcement officers chasing them. Agent Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota Bureau of Crime Apprehension gets the job done but doesn’t leave much of an impression. His partner, FBI Agent Carla Windermere, is young, beautiful, good at what she does; she looks great on the surface but we don’t see much of her inner life. Perhaps they’ll gain dimensions in the next Stevens and Windermere installment, as this is only the first in the series. For now, however, the outlaws steal the show.

Nerd verdict: Propulsive Professionals, with complex criminals

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore

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