New Books (August-September)

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Featuring: James Barclay, J. Patrick Black, Lila Bowen, Edward Cox, Blake Crouch, John French, Mira Grant, Mark Hill, Gregg Hurwitz, Greg Iles, Eowyn Ivey, Vic James, K.V. Johansen, Owen Laukkanen, John le Carré, Jill Leovy, Tim O’Mara, Susan Perabo, Sarah Perry, Anthony Riches, George Saunders, Amy Schumer, Alan Sepinwall, Matt Zoller Seitz, Michael Tolkin, Neely Tucker, Karine Tuil, Wendy N. Wagner, Django Wexler, Colson Whitehead, Fran Wilde Continue reading

Quick Review: THE STOLEN ONES by Owen Laukkanen (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Corvus)

LaukkanenO-S&W4-StolenOnesUSStevens & Windermere get caught up investigating an international sex-trafficking organization

When you’ve got nothing left, you’ve got nothing left to lose.

Cass County, Minnesota: A sheriff’s deputy steps out of a diner on a rainy summer evening, and a few minutes later, he’s lying dead in the mud. When BCA agent Kirk Stevens arrives on the scene, he discovers local authorities have taken into custody a single suspect: A hysterical young woman found sitting by the body, holding the deputy’s own gun. She has no ID, speaks no English. A mystery woman.

The mystery only deepens from there, as Stevens and Carla Windermere, his partner in the new joint BCA – FBI violent crime task force, find themselves on the trail of a massive international kidnapping and prostitution operation. Before the two agents are done, they will have traveled over half the country, from Montana to New York, and come face-to-face not only with the most vicious man either of them has ever encountered — but two of the most courageous women.

They are sisters, stolen ones. But just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you have to stay one.

I only recently discovered Laukkanen’s thrillers, but he has quickly become an author whose books I think I will always buy. The Stolen Ones is the fourth novel in the Stephens & Windermere series, and an excellent thriller. Laukkanen is getting better with each new novel, I think. Continue reading

Books Received (April)

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Featuring: Andrew Bannister, Stephanie Burgis, Lee Child, Myke Cole, Sebastien de Castell, A.A. Dhand, N.S. Dolkart, Steven Erikson, Christie Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, Jessica Grose, Guy Haley, Peter Hanington, Samantha Hayes, Kaui Hart Hemmings, D.L. Hughley, Kij Johnson, Emma Kavanagh, Laura Lam, Owen Laukkanen, Ken MacLeod, Laurence MacNaughton, Jay McInerney, Barney Norris, Daniel O’Malley, Ann Patchett, Ben Peek, Leif G.W. Perrson, Gae Polisner, Adam Rakunas, Chris Roberson, J. Todd Scott, Helen Sedgwick, J.P. Smythe, Brian Staveley, James Swallow, Michael Swanwick, David Swinson, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Matt Wallace, Robin Yocum

Above Picture: Crop of Injection #7, by Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire (Image)

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Review: CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE & THE KILL FEE by Owen Laukkanen (Corvus)

Two more excellent Stevens & Windermere cases

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CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE

From the outside, Carter Tomlin’s life looks perfect: a big house, a pretty wife, two kids — a St. Paul success story. But Tomlin has a secret. He’s lost his job, the bills are mounting, and that perfect life is hanging by a thread. Desperate, he robs a bank. Then he robs another.

As the red flags start to go up, FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere hones in on Tomlin from one direction, while Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens picks up the trail from another. The two cops haven’t talked since their first case together, but that’s all going to change very quickly. Because Carter Tomlin’s decided he likes robbing banks. And it’s not because of the money, not anymore. Tomlin has guns and a new taste for violence. And he’s not quitting anytime soon…

In the second novel in Laukkanen’s excellent Stevens & Windermere series, the financial crisis drives a successful accountant to walk on the darkside. Unfortunately, it awakens a side of himself that had hitherto been hidden. When desperation drives Tomlin to start robbing banks, his taste for crime leads his exploits into deadly escalate. Into the mix, FBI Special Agent Windermere is assigned to the bank robberies, which eventually brings her back in touch with BCA investigator Stevens. The two haven’t been in contact since the events of The Professionals, and their relationship remains somewhat strange and comfortable-and-uncomfortable at the same time. It’s a fast-paced novel, as Tomlin spirals out of control, and Stevens (and, ultimately, his family) gets roped into the case. I enjoyed this as much as the first novel. Highly recommended.

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THE KILL FEE

In Saint Paul, Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens and his sometime colleague FBI special agent Carla Windermere witness the assassination of a local billionaire. The shooter flees the scene, but not before the pair see his face — and the blank expression in his eyes. Stevens and Windermere investigate and are led across the country, down dead ends and into long-forgotten cold cases, until they finally discover a chilling clue: a high tech murder-for-hire website. It’s a break in the case but only the beginning. Who is the dead-eyed shooter? Who recruits the assassins? And who profits from the fee? It is a race against the clock, and the killer has his next target in sight…

In this third novel, Laukkanen seems to be stretching his authorial-wings, in less of a rush to tell his story. This is no bad thing, but I certainly noted the less-breakneck pacing. It’s an interesting novel, and just as good, too. Stevens and Windermere have been keeping in touch, maintaining a friendship, and it is on one of their coffee dates that they witness a professional hit go down in St. Paul. They follow the killer as he flees the scene, but there’s something off about him — beyond the fact that he’s a killer,of course. Windermere and Stevens are tasked with uncovering the identity and motive of the killer. As more deaths pile up, though, they realise that there’s something far more sinister going on. The novel is an interesting look at manipulation and the depravations of PTSD. As it turns out, the novels main villain is not the killer, but someone far worse. A slower novel, but no less gripping as a result. Another great novel in what is fast becoming a favourite. Highly recommended.

*

Criminal Enterprise and The Kill Fee are published in the UK by Corvus Books; in the US the series is published by Berkley. The fourth novel, The Stolen Ones, is out now. The fifth novel, The Watcher in the Wall is out in March 2016.

New Books: March #2

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A few more thrillers this time around, most of which I bought – this has been part of a conscious decision on my part to read more non-SFF books. Mainly because I think I’m overdosing on those genres, and I feel like I’m missing out on authors I ordinarily would love to read.

Featuring: Zachary Brown, Kristi Charish, Harlan Coben, Eve Darrows, Lindsey Davis, Christopher Golden, Richard Kadrey, Robert Karjel, Paul S. Kemp, Shane Kuhn, Owen Laukkanen, Mike Lawson, Tim Lebbon, Scott McCloud, Keija Parssinen, Dan Simmons, Lachlan Smith, Sue Tingey

[GIF from Black Books – a fantastic, curmudgeonly UK TV comedy series. Recommended.] Continue reading

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. Continue reading