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Owen Laukkanen: THE PROFESSIONALS Sells Friendly Criminals
Owen Laukkanen’s THE PROFESSIONALS loads a keen story between its unassuming cover: An adrenaline-laced little tale of dissolute and disillusioned college kids making the rent by kidnapping the rich for small ransoms and low risk.
Just because someone’s a kidnapper doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Right?
You’d almost buy that if you do yourself the favor of buying The Professionals, Owen Laukkanen’s debut novel from Penguin. The Professionals loads a keen story between its unassuming cover: An adrenaline-laced little tale of dissolute and disillusioned college kids making the rent by kidnapping the rich for small ransoms and low risk.
Then, as you’d guess, low risk takes a hairpin turn and leads The Professionals into a nightmare chase involving the Detroit mob, cops and the FBI.
The strongest selling point? The characters take after the author that created them.
Owen Laukkanen is six-and-a-half feet of nice. One of the friendliest former lobster boaters I’ve known, Owen has a cordiality that comes out in his little criminals and the law jockeys on their tale. Reviewer upon reviewer has discovered a gang of folks they’d want to have a beer with inside the pages of The Professionals.
How does he pull it off? Laukkanen’s characters are all quirky birds on a very high and narrow wire, and it’s a pleasure to hear them sing through the amphetamine stammer of his distinctive voice. It also helps that none of the principals really crave pain. Whether kidnappers or cops, these are just people getting the job done. They’re not cruel – merely kind of blinded by their purpose.
Add up all these shades of moral gray and complex motives, and you get a curvy plot with some sophisticated twists.
With all that going for it, The Professionals has been snaring starred reviews right and left. Many remark on how it taps the zeitgeist by pitting struggling students against the corporate establishment. Others just find themselves smitten with Pender, Marie, Sawyer, Mouse, and the legal eagles, Kirk and Carla. Either way, The Professionals is finding a bull market for its debut.