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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Review: The Professionals, Owen Laukkanen (Canada: British Columbia)

Title: The Professionals
Author: Owen Laukkanen
Publication: 2012/New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN #: 978-0-399-15789-9
# of pages: 370
Discovered at Stop You're Killing Me
Read in paper format
Also available in e-book format, Dutch translation
Link to author’s website: 

Professionals are experts in their vocation. The best aren’t greedy, they have a long term plan and they do their research before starting a new project. Even, apparently, if they are professional kidnappers. Four unemployed university graduates, Pender, his girlfriend Marie, and his two close friends Sawyer and Mouse are disenchanted with life and blame the traders and stockbrokers who got rich while ruining the US economy, leaving them and others like them without work or hope. So why not make them pay for what they did? Kidnap them, ask for a manageable ransom, terrify them into not reporting it to the police – do this carefully and in a mere five years, the group will soon be able to retire to the Maldives. One less than cooperative victim finally reports the incident to the police. Then one research slipup results in them kidnapping the wrong man and they suddenly have more than the police to worry about.

Agent Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is used to paperwork and everyday crimes, easily solved murders from robberies, drug deals and marital issues. A kidnapping that is not drug related sounds like a true investigative challenge. When the case crosses state lines, he now has to share the excitement with a driven FBI agent Carla Windermere. Will they get to the kidnappers first?
Can you empathize with bad guys? After all, they are kidnapping people who have questionable ethics and no apparent concern for the ordinary person. This was an interesting aspect of the book, a grudging regard for the kidnappers, at least before things went off the rails. Would any one of these four have become a criminal on their own? When do group dynamics take things to an unexpected level? Would you stay true to your friends, no matter what? These are just some of the questions this novel explores. It was engaging and (mostly) believable although some of the group’s escapes required a healthy dose of good luck. I particularly enjoyed how the lead detectives found the reality of the chase became more exciting than the actual resolution. Having been involved in some interesting fraud investigations, I have a sense of this feeling and can only imagine what it’s like in this level of case. Not quite a stay up all night book but I certainly wanted to see how it would end.                   Rating: (^_°)  Intriguing

After graduation, author Laukkanen struggled to find work and finally answered a Craiglist ad which led him  to covering international poker tournaments for a poker website. After three years, he turned back to the creative writing he had studied at the University of British Columbia. This is the first in a series for detectives Stevens and Windermere. The second book, “Criminal Enterprise”, was released this year and two more instalments are in the works.

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