Friday, January 27, 2017

Review of "The Professionals" by Owen Laukkanen

Four college graduates - Pender, Marie, Sawyer, and Mouse - are unable to secure good-paying jobs and form a kidnapping ring. Their plan is to pull off a slew of abductions, pile up a lot of ransom money, and retire to the Maldives. For each job the kidnappers choose a wealthy family man, ask for $60,000 (an amount they consider easily affordable), and make dire threats about informing the cops.

As the book opens, the plan has been working perfectly. The gang has staged jobs across the country and no one has squealed to the police. Then the criminals make a bad mistake. They abduct a Detroit man named Donald Beneteau, whose wife is connected to the mob.

The caper goes badly wrong.....Beneteau is killed and Mouse is shot. The outlaws go on the run, chased by mobsters and law enforcement officials. The police task force is led by Minnesota BCA investigator Kirk Stevens and FBI Agent Carla Windermere, who meet for the first time in this book.

The kidnappers are closely pursued by the mafia and police, but they're pretty lucky.....for a while. The perps outmaneuver their pursuers and leave the bodies of several mobsters behind. Mouse, however, is badly wounded and starts to go downhill.

There's plenty of excitement in the story, with a chase that extends from the midwest to Florida and back again. Laukkanen also does a good job with the characters, who are well-drawn - though not always sympathetic (or quite believable).

For example, Stevens and Windermere are having so much 'fun' chasing these perps that they're sorry the investigation will eventually end. Really?? Do cops really think like that?? Also, there's an attraction between Stevens - a happily married man with kids, and Windermere - who has a boyfriend. Fair enough, it happens. But Windermere seems to encourage the flirtation, which put me off.

For their part, the kidnappers (at first) think of themselves as "professionals" - basically decent people who do little harm. They completely ignore the trauma inflicted on the kidnap families.

The story is an engaging thriller, but some plot points strain credulity.

                                      SPOILER ALERT      SPOILER ALERT
[ Some of the gang's 'getaways' seem impossible. The mobsters - who are savvy criminals - would have to be REALLY DIM to be bested by some of the gang's tactics. This is especially true in the scene where the mafia arranges to exchange a girl hostage for the gang members.

The perps happen to meet a girl on the beach - a beautiful Princeton coed from a billionaire family - who decides to throw in with them and go on the run. Since there's a very real possibility they'll all be caught or killed, this simply doesn't ring true.

The gang totes a badly wounded Mouse around for days and days without visiting a doctor or hospital....essentially killing him. I was appalled by this.]

                                   END SPOILER ALERT      END SPOILER ALERT

Though there are some flaws, this is a good beginning to the Stevens-Windermere series. Recommended to fans of thrillers.

Rating: 3 stars

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