Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Review of The "Professionals" [29]

The Professionals: A Stevens and Windermere Novel by Owen Laukkanen
Putnam Adult, ISBN 978-0399157899
March 29, 2012, 384 pages

It's a lousy job market for liberal arts collage graduates, or ones that really don't fit into the work force very well. So when a group of four friends can't find job that are equal to what they think they are coffee shop jobs for them!..what starts as a joke become their new life plan. They will travel around the country, not long in any one place, kidnapping rich people for a reasonable amount, $100,000 or less, and then letting the victim go unharmed. And things are working out pretty well, letting them save up for their retirement plan of a tropical island with a pile of money in a couple of years, until they pick their latest victim without doing quite enough research. It seems that he is the husband of a mob connected woman, a crime boss connected to the Bartholdi crime family. No, he is not the guy you really want to mess with, as they find out too late. But then things go from bad to worse when he ends up shot to death as they try to return him.

Very quickly, they find themselves being pursued not only by  FBI agent Carla Windermele from the Minnesota field office and Minnesota State Agent Kirk Stevens, on loan from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but also by an assortment of Mob goons. And we will find ourselves following them, flying around the country from Miami to Seattle, guns blazing.

OK, this is not a bad book but it is not as good as all the great blurbs from the likes of Lee Child and John Sandford led me to hope. It is well written and action packed, I will give it that. And even though there are a lot of characters and a lot of different locations, who was who and what was going on was always pretty clear. That is the good news.

But...I had a couple of major issues with the book.
My number one problem, and it is a big number one, is the characters. The story is told from several points of view, the kidnapping gang, the FBI and state agent, and even the main mob guy who is after the four. The four college kidnapers are presented as rather sympathetic. The just want money and OK, they scare innocent people but they didn't mean to hurt anyone. Well, until they killed one..and then a bunch more. Poor dears. Poor amoral, lazy, over-educated dears.
"It was about cheating the system and not getting caught. It was about some crazy Robin Hood thing, this gang of broke kids outsmarting the rich, redistributing the wealth, and proving that yeah, crime could pay, and a hell of a lot more than some useless college degree besides."
An interesting message. Oh, I see, that is suppose to make it OK. Well, it does not, does it?
Then we have the FBI agent Carla and State Agent Kirk. He is happily married and she has a boyfriend, but they don't seem above some heavy duty flirting. It seems that this is meant to be a series with the two of them and let me say, I for one have NO interest in seeing where that is going. It is totally out of character with the sort of people we are told they are and is actually a tiny bit creepy.

Then there are the many cities the book is set in. We visit a bunch of different places, including one of my favorite book settings, Seattle, and my second favorite, Miami Beach, but for all the flavor we get, it could have been set anywhere. One trip to the beach for a few minutes was as much as we get. If I am going to do that much traveling, I want to get a feel for the difference or we might as well of stayed in Minnesota.

And finally, there is the plot.
I though it started rather believable and, in fact, I thought it was a pretty clever idea. But by the ending it just went off the deep end for me, believability at the breaking point. For a gang that was all nonviolent at first, they went pretty Rambo-like very quickly, with never a moment questioning what they we doing. Where does one learn how to use an automatic weapons on the road? And are we still suppose to be pulling for them? I think not.

A pretty entertaining book..the proof is I finished it...but not up to the hype.
Not my favorite debut book by a long shot but I will be interested to see what the author produces next.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy for my review.


  1. The most disturbing thing here is that Lee Child and John Sandford, two guys who I follow with religious zeal, apparently sold out.

    1. this is not the first time this has happened to me, with a number of my favorite authors giving blurbs to books I ended up not liking.
      you think I would learn, but hope springs eternal...

  2. I could see that all the issues that would make me not like this also would make this a natural for a movie!

  3. I don't pay too much attention to blurbs from authors - I think it's a courtesy thing that they feel they have to fulfill. The book sounds like it's somewhat entertaining.

  4. I probably have read several versions of this same book! kind of like the chick flick plots in movies..

  5. I haven't read Sandford or Child, but that's neither here nor there. Many years ago, I paid attention to blurbs, but got burned too many times. The people I pay attention to are not well known at all, but I trust their judgement. You had the same take on this book as I did.

  6. Blurb? Pfffffft! I trust bloggers' opinions.


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