Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: The Professionals

Summary: Four friends, recent college graduates, 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-quick, efficient, low risk-works like a charm. Until they kidnap the wrong man. 

Now two groups they've very much wanted to avoid 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 all crisscross the country in deadly pursuit and a series of increasingly explosive confrontations, each of them is ultimately forced to recognize the truth: The true professionals, cop or criminal, are those who are willing to sacrifice . . . everything. 

A finger-burning page-turner, filled with twists, surprises, and memorably complex characters, The Professionals marks the arrival of a remarkable new writer. -- Putnam

I can't put my finger on why I've been so into thrillers lately, but when I look at my stack of books, these types of books seem to rise to the top. The latest thriller that I've read and really enjoyed is called THE PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen. It's getting rave reviews from some pretty well-known authors and I can certainly see why.

THE PROFESSIONALS tells the story of four friends who decide to become kidnappers when they can't get a jobs after college graduation. What starts out as a joke begins to become more real as they make plans to kidnap wealthy  men (no women or children) and ask for moderate ransoms (so as not to draw attention to themselves.) Things seem pretty close to perfect for almost two years until they kidnap a man whose wife is connected to organized crime. And then... everything changes as two cops, Stevens and Windermere, and some organized crime thugs begin to hunt them down.

When I first started THE PROFESSIONALS, I knew it was going to be a novel that I would enjoy. I immediately appreciated Mr. Laukkanen's writing style and the pace of the novel; and I thought the premise seemed like an interesting one (especially in an economy where kids are forced to get creative with their jobs.) The book is written with lots of chapters (93 if you're interested) made up of just a few pages each. For whatever reason, I always find that this style works well for me in suspense stories. I think the smaller chapters make me feel as if the pace of the story is very fast and it definitely makes me turn the pages. In fact, I read this entire novel which is over 370 pages in just two sittings. It's a very easy and quick read that I found hard to put down.

I found it interesting that THE PROFESSIONALS is Mr. Laukkanen's debut novel. It's a pretty commendable feat especially given how polished the story is. I think what I most appreciated about his writing was how well he developed the characters. And by that, I'm not just talking about the good guys. The author managed to make the four criminals (and even the organized crime guys to some extent) very real to me, and I admit that I liked them despite their crimes. It's rare for me to read a book like this and feel an affinity with the criminals -- usually I'm rooting for their demise. However, in THE PROFESSIONALS, I was torn. While I adored Stevens and Windermere and wanted them to succeed after their stellar police work, I also really liked the criminals; and I wasn't exactly sure who I was rooting for by the end of the novel.

As far as thrillers go, THE PROFESSIONALS is a very good one. The action is the story is pretty much non-stop and had me on the edge of my seat for much of the story. The characters are involved in cross-country chases, shoot-outs, and much much more. I thought Mr. Laukkanen did a wonderful job of building suspense and tension, and he even made a few of the scenes touching. All in all, this novel was a great ride!

I was very excited to learn that the author is busy at work on another book involving Stevens and Windermere. Of course, I'll be anxiously awaiting that novel's publication date. Stevens and Windermere are extremely likable and their chemistry is definitely special. I'm not sure how Stevens is going to find an excuse to be away from his family again and work with FBI Agent Windermere, but I have little doubt that the author will find another creative crime that they need to solve.

If you enjoy thrillers, then you won't want to miss THE PROFESSIONALS!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm drawn to the thrillers too. And I think it is fun when the favorite characters are the bad guys! In Lehane's Moonlight Mile, I actually liked the Russian mobster best of all (and I'm not totally sure that was intentional). It is a fun change of pace!

bermudaonion said...

This does sound exciting! I bet there are many crimes like that that start out as jokes and escalate out of control.

Anonymous said...

I heard some good things about this one on my recent trip to AZ. Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, was praising it and telling everyone they should read it. Sounds like it's a winner.

Serena said...

I haven't heard of this book before, but I like the premise of this one with the four friends becoming kidnappers as a way to become rich.