Reviews for Professionals

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #2
Four recent college graduates joke about kidnapping people who have "grown rich short-selling the American Dream." Facing careers as baristas, they act on the idea, and for two years they crisscross the country pulling off carefully planned, $60,000 snatches. None of their victims even notifies the police. But a hiccup in Minneapolis and a disaster in Detroit put them squarely in the sights of organized-crime hitters, FBI agent Carla Windermere, and Minnesota State Police detective Kirk Stevens. Debut novelist Laukkanen's interesting premise is supported by well-drawn characters, lots of action, solid procedural detail, and an unrelenting pace. Windermere and Stevens are planned to be series characters, and Laukkanen artfully manages to make sympathetic figures of both cops and kidnappers. Credulity gets strained a bit when the kidnappers overcome hired killers in several violent encounters and in the attraction between a young, black, and beautiful federal agent and the middle-aged, happily married white cop from St. Paul. Nevertheless, crime fans will find The Professionals an engaging and promising first novel. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2012 April
Investigations in Hollywood

When a new Joseph Wambaugh book arrives, I know that I will be mightily entertained: I will laugh out loud, suffer with the characters through the poignant moments and be very sad to have turned the final page. This is certainly the case with Wambaugh’s latest Hollywood Division novel, Harbor Nocturne. Back once again are the usual zanies: “Hollywood” Nate Weiss, the SAG-card-carrying wannabe actor, fretting as always that he is fast approaching his use-by date; Flotsam and Jetsam, the amiable party-down surfer cop duo; and the looming presence of “The Oracle,” a fallen officer whose photo graces the lobby of Hollywood Station—no cop passes the picture without touching it for good luck before going on duty. This time out, Wambaugh’s motley crew will investigate a massage parlor that may be a cover for a human trafficking operation; a strange Russian fellow with a fetish for amputees—particularly folks who have voluntarily had healthy limbs removed; and the strange doings of a Serbian crime lord and his huge and lethal Korean associate. Another do-not-miss novel from a living legend of contemporary crime fiction.

This month, three novels deviate from the norm and unfold from the perspective of the crooks. The first one is best-selling Japanese author Fuminori Nakamura’s English-language debut, The Thief. Originally published in 2009 as Suri, The Thief is the first-person narrative of an ill-starred Tokyo pickpocket about to be drawn into the biggest scam of his career. He is none too happy about this turn of events, but there is little to be done about it; ruthless crime boss Kizaki is watching his every move. Complicating matters is his budding friendship with a young shoplifter and the boy’s ne’er-do-well mom, each of whom has a hidden agenda that could compromise our (anti)hero’s tenuous grip of the situation. Then, when what should have been a straightforward burglary turns into a highly publicized political assassination, all bets are off. Our light-fingered protagonist finds himself in the position of knowing too much—way too much. Nakamura’s writing invites comparison to the best of the Japanese suspense novelists: Natsuo Kirino, Miyuki Miyabe, Keigo Higashino. A must for fans of Tokyo noir.

In different circumstances, Pender and his friends might have had more normal lives (the ritual commute into the city; the family comfortably ensconced in the split-level; the two weeks’ vacation), but the downturn in the economy has left the recent grads underemployed, and they have been forced to improvise. The group has engineered a clever kidnapping scam: low ransom, high volume. They’ll take 50K here, 100K there, and soon there should be enough dough socked away to fund their early retirement. But that wouldn’t be a great story, and Owen Laukkanen’s debut novel, The Professionals, is nothing if not a great story. Things go pear-shaped when the group kidnaps the husband of a noted Mafia queen; needless to say, she is not pleased, and she sets her minions after the young crew. Author Laukkanen deftly cuts back and forth among the kidnappers, the thugs and the authorities hot on their trails, engendering reader empathy for members of each group—no easy feat!

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read an interview with Owen Laukkanen.

You’ve been waiting for this book. You’ve worked your way through all the Henning Mankells and the Jo Nesbv?s. You’ve read enough Scandinavian thrillers to teach Swedish Suspense 101. But you haven’t read anything like Jens Lapidus’ Easy Money, which is the antithesis of a police procedural. Rather, it is a crime procedural, written from the points of view of three career criminals on a collision course with one another: Jorge, the Chilean immigrant drug dealer who performed a vault over a prison wall with no plan of what to do afterward; JW, the preppie coke supplier to frat boy cronies, desperate for the cash to keep up appearances; and Mrado, the conflicted strong-arm goon for the Serbian mafioso who holds sway over the Stockholm underworld. Every flavor of evil is close at hand: sex slavery, drugs, extortion, killing for hire—and these are just the tip of the iceberg. No sin is left uncommitted; no offensive word goes unsaid; no punches are pulled. For my money, Easy Money is hands-down the best gangster thriller in years.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 January #1
A fast-moving debut thriller with enough twists to fill a pretzel bag. They aren't bad people. It's just that times are tough in Michigan, and none of these young friends can find a decent job. So Pender, Sawyer, Mouse and Marie decide that kidnapping a few rich people for quick, modest ransoms would solve their financial woes and let them live out their lives on a beach in the Maldives. No one gets hurt, no one gets greedy and they all stay professional. They just need to grab some rich businessmen, make a few quiet deals and walk away with a $60,000 payoff each time. One victim even complains he's worth way more, but $60K is enough for them. The plan works beautifully until they mess with the wrong guy and their great retirement plan goes insanely haywire. Meanwhile, state cop Kirk Stevens and FBI agent Carla Windermere team up to investigate the crimes. The characters are as much fun as the plot. Stevens is happily married and faithful, and Windermere has a beau, yet when they work together the sexual tension between them is obvious. They are the real pros in this case as they try to nail the criminals and stop the mayhem that spirals out of control. And for all the danger, Stevens and Windermere tell each other they're having so much fun they wish the case would go on forever. The kidnappers, however, enjoy themselves somewhat less while they learn that some things may be more important than money--like staying alive, for example. Let's hope Laukkanen writes more thrillers like this one. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 November #1

Unable to find jobs, four recent college grads get by with a little low-key kidnapping. But then they pick the wrong victim. Fresh premise and lots of support for this debut thriller, with so many quotes from genre heavies--from Box to Sanford. A real ground-floor opportunity for thriller fans.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 January #2

Laukkanen's clever debut, the first in a new crime thriller series, compares favorably to Scott Smith's classic caper novel, A Simple Plan. Four college friends, who possess varying skills but are unable to find work in today's grim job market, decide to make money by kidnapping bankers and other extremely wealthy men around the U.S. The gang stays below law enforcement's radar by demanding ransoms so modest that the unharmed victims are inclined not to report their abduction. The group's luck runs out on a Michigan job when their target turns out to be connected to the Mafia, a mistake that starts an avalanche of violence. Their crime spree leads to the involvement of FBI agent Carla Windermere and Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens, who race the mob to catch the kidnappers. A few developments strain credulity, but the story's breakneck pace will carry most readers along. Author tour. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Mar.)

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