The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen

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The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: What does it take to be a professional criminal? A cool exterior and the ability to think on the job. The Professionals explores what happens when a supposedly professional gang of kidnappers starts to unravel fast. Can Agents Stevens and Windermere catch up with the gang before the criminal underworld do?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781782393665

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The professional criminal is the type of person who gets in, does the job and then gets out again. Sounds like the perfect way to stay undetected as a lifelong miscreant, but does not sound like the most exciting narrative for a story. Instead, take a bunch of young kidnappers who are drunk on their own success, whose racket goes wrong one day when they pick up the wrong mark. Watching their lives spiral out of control would be a much more thrilling read. A read just like The Professionals.

Pender, Sawyer, Marie and Mouse are four recent graduates finding it hard to get a job in the current harsh working climate. Like any sensible person with a degree they decide to avoid the job centre and set out creating a kidnapping ring instead. And they are good. Two years of successful jobs never asking for too much has made them consider themselves as professionals, but what does a professional do when a job goes wrong? According to Laukkanen, they let things fall apart quickly.

The Professionals is a surprising read in more than one way. Not only is it a thriller that is actually thrilling, but it also has a couple of cops who are good at their jobs at the centre. The story follows the gang of four kidnappers, but also Agents Stevens and Windermere, a local agent and an FBI agent on the case. It then throws in the point of view of a shady gang who have their eyes on our antiheroes for their own reasons. By flipping between the chased and chasers, Laukkanen creates a vibrant story.

John Sandford ‘Prey’ novels have done this successfully for years and it is good to see that this author praises Laukkanen’s work at the start of the book. There is the same sense here of the cops closing in bit by bit that makes the Lucas Davenport novels, as written by Sandford, so electric. Laukkanen throws in a third criminal element that only adds to the mix, who will find the kidnapping gang first, or will they escape?

There is an intelligence to ‘The Professionals’ that is weaved within the way that the narrative plays out. Laukkanen does not grace any of the characters with a genius IQ, but they are all capable of making believable decisions. The best characters are Agents Stevens and Windermere who are on the hunt for Pender and co. The way that the case unfolds in front of them is very believable; a combination of dogged police work, trusting your instincts and blind luck.

There is also a lot of fun just reading about the unravelling of the kidnapping gang. They start off as cool customers, but everything soon falls apart around them as they become desperate. The one misgiving is perhaps there is not enough cold professionalism from them to begin with. The book is essentially about their disintegration, but it is hard to believe they were any good at kidnapping for two years is they implode so impressively.

The Professionals is a great crime thriller that is full of action and tension. However, it stands out from other books in the genre by Laukkanen’s exploration of what makes a professional. The kidnappers believe that they are, but events suggest they are not. The police never claim to be, but they go about their duty in a way that achieves results. Intelligent and action packed.

If this book appeals then you might also like to try The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty and Tell No One by Harlan Coben

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