Quick Review: THE PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen (Corvus/Berkley)

LaukkanenO-S&W1-ProfessionalsUKA fast-paced, engaging debut thriller

Four friends, caught in a terrible job market, joke about turning to kidnapping to survive. And then, suddenly, it’s no joke. For two years, the strategy they devise works like a charm – until they kidnap the wrong man.

Now two groups are after them – the law, in the form of veteran state investigator Kirk Stevens and hotshot young FBI agent Carla Windermere, and an organized crime outfit looking for payback. As they crisscross the country in a series of increasingly explosive confrontations, each of them is ultimately forced to recognize the truth: the real professionals, cop or criminal, are those who are willing to sacrifice everything.

This is the first of Laukkanen’s Stevens & Windermere thriller, and it marked the arrival of a great new voice for the genre. The novel is quickly-paced. The characters are interesting and mostly well-developed. It has a few debut niggles, but it’s pretty polished and gripping. I’ll be reading the rest of Laukkanen’s novels, and be keeping an eye open for more in the future.

The novel doesn’t need a long review, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

There’s an even split in the perspectives, offering just as much from the POV of the criminals as Stevens and Windermere. I liked this balance, giving us decent impressions of what drives the criminals as well as the progression of the investigation (I liked that the two investigators are honest about why they’re doing this, what they love about it and so forth). I enjoyed getting into the mind of the kidnappers, too – they’re well-presented, nuanced and obviously misguided. As events spiral out of their control, though, their actions and modus operandi changes. It felt natural, the way they change.

LaukkanenO-S&W1-ProfessionalsUSPBA lot happens in the novel: Laukkanen knows how to keep the momentum ratcheted up, but at the same time puts his characters through a good amount of trouble. They cross a number of states, there are shoot-outs, chases, stand-offs and hoodwinks. Yes, there are a couple of sudden shifts in the story – revelations reached seemingly out of nowhere, the occasional jerk forward in time or geography. But, these are minor niggles that didn’t stop me from enjoying the novel.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable, engaging crime thriller

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The Professionals is published in the UK by Corvus Books and in North America by Berkley.

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