The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
Putnam • $25.95 • ISBN 9780399157899
March 29, 2012


Owen Laukkanen's debut novel has a timely hook. Four friends—recent college grads—are frustrated with the job market when they earn their diplomas. So what do they do? Turn to kidnapping, of course. They do their research and only kidnap men who can afford the ransom—financial advisers and the like whose wives will give $60,000 to have their husbands back, no questions asked. After two years of "low risk," kidnappings, though, things get complicated. The young criminals accidentally nab a man with mafia connections, and before long they're being tailed by both gangsters and the FBI.

Some of suspense fiction's finest—writers like Lee Child, C.J. Box and Jonathan Kellerman—have sung this novel's praises. It's no surprise, then, that the pages practically turn themselves, and all you can do is hang on for the ride once the action gets going.

Here's an excerpt about the ringleader's philosophy on kidnapping:

Of all his worries, it was greed that kept Arthur Pender awake at night. It wasn't his own greed that bothered him; Pender was happy with sixty-thousand-dollar scores. He worried, though, that the long grind would wear on his team.

Most would-be kidnappers treated the job like a Hail Mary. Tried to knock down some CEO, some pop star, tried to make ten million and disappear after one big haul. One shot for all the glory. To Pender, that kind of thinking was stupidity, plain and simple. Those heroes who aimed for the big scores always attracted the big crowds. Police. Feds. TV cameras. Publicity like that made it impossible to remain anonymous. Publicity like that meant investigations, manhunts, Wanted posters. Ultimately, publicity like that meant jail or death. Nobody got away from the Big American Machine.

Far better, then, to pull quick scores. Lower numbers, but higher volume. The Pender method. Snatch guys like Terry Harper, Martin Warner. Midlevel executives, hedge-fund managers, guys with enough cash to make the job worthwhile, with families to pay the ransoms, but with no glamour to their names. No romance. Anonymous upper-class fellas who just wanted to see things return to normal.


What are you reading today? Will you check out The Professionals when it comes out in late March?

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