The Professionals
Date Published03 July 2014
Price£ 7.99

The Professionals

by Owen Laukkanen

When four friends carrying out a kidnap operation run into trouble, agents Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere are hot on their trail.


Four graduates with little prospect of employment take up kidnapping and by detailed research, moderate demands, and tight discipline are well on their way to meeting their retirement target. But when they pick a victim from the Beneteau crime family, things quickly fall apart.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officer Kirk Stevens is already on their trail, and when the FBI is brought in, assigned officer Carla Windermere co-opts Stevens to assist. The FBI has competition, however, in the shape of D’Antonio, assigned by the Beneteau family to take revenge. The friends will have to be smart and fast to evade their pursuers, and a series of skirmishes across the US follow to decide the final outcome.

This is an excellent and impressive first novel which maintains the tension throughout, to a gripping climax. Action is seen mainly through the eyes of Maria and Pender, two of the four friends, and Stevens, with occasional pages from the perspective of D’Antonio and other bit-part players. These characters all emerge as realistic and sympathetic enough so that the reader is torn between the protagonists.

Stevens and Windermere form a close working relationship and have the best lines, with casual and convincing speech somewhat reminiscent of Elmore Leonard. At the same time they come across as professional, with an instinctive grasp of the key areas to narrow down their search. While the two are based in different offices, this is a partnership that works well on the page and no doubt the author will be looking for further opportunities to extend their liaison.

The kidnappers, in contrast, are amateurs, but bright and with the most to lose. The plot is believable enough if one can accept the basic premise that people with an education which gives them the chance of white-collar employment would accept the risks inherent in this type of work, although the modesty of their demands does strike one as a little surprising. These reservations aside, however, the reactions of the team as their well-ordered operation crumbles provide plenty of interest. Generally they stand up better to the pressure than one might expect, and it is difficult to resist rooting for them.

Reviewed 18 April 2015 by Chris Roberts