Book Review: THE PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen

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

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Benoit Lelievre
    March 27, 2012 at 7:20 am

    hahaha! I love the idea behind this. Great review

  • Reply
    Steve Weddle
    March 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Really enjoyed this. Looking forward to everything Mr. Laukkanen writes.

  • Reply
    EIREGO
    March 27, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Geesh, I’m thinking about grabbing some friends and trying something like that, but I would probably try bank robbing. LOL! I don’t think I’d be rooting for the cops during this read, either. Sounds like you had a good time being kidnapped. Will check it out.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    March 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    As you know, I’ve been looking forward to this review, and remain eager to pick this one up. Thanks for, as always, an honest review of the material, I know I’m never getting a glossed over bit of praise, but the real deal. This one is moving up the TBR.

  • Reply
    Christine
    March 31, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    *Note to self: don’t start reading late or when there are events scheduled later in the day* Thanks for this review, PCN!

  • Reply
    Paulette
    April 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    How did I miss this one? Just ordered for Kindle…might not sleep tonight!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Let me know what you think!

      • Reply
        Lauren
        April 15, 2012 at 12:20 am

        I just started The Professionals this morning, Paulette. I just got home from a concert, it’s almost midnight-thirty, and I’m going to stay up and read it. So far, it’s goooood. (only one nit to pick)

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