The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
Putnam • $25.95 • ISBN 9780399157899
March 29, 2012
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.
Our February Mystery of the Month, Defending Jacob by William Landay, taps into a parent's worst nightmare. No -- worse.
Assistant D.A. Andy Barber's son seems the most likely suspect for a neighbor's brutal murder. Andy finds himself desperately defending his son, holding his family together and keeping at bay that tiny nagging doubt. Writes Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, "Defending Jacob is one of the most disturbing books of the year, and soon to be one of the most talked-about."
Check out an excerpt from Chapter 1, when Andy is being questioned by the prosecuting attorney:
In the grand jury room that morning, the jurors were in a sullen, defeated mood. They sat, thirty-odd men and women who had not been clever enough to find a way out of serving, all crammed into those school chairs with a teardrop-shaped desk for a chair-arm. They understood their jobs well enough by now. Grand juries serve for months, and they figure out pretty quickly what the gig is all about: accuse, point your finger, name the wicked one.
A grand jury proceeding is not a trial. There is no judge in the room and no defense lawyer. The prosecutor runs the show. It is an investigation and in theory a check on the prosecutor’s power, since the grand jury decides whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to haul a suspect into court for trial. If there is enough evidence, the grand jury grants the prosecutor an indictment, his ticket to Superior Court. If not, they return a “no bill” and the case is over before it begins. In practice, “no bill”s are rare. Most grand juries indict. Why not? They only see one side of the case.
But in this case, I suspect the jurors knew Logiudice did not have a case. Not today. The truth was not going to be found, not with evidence this stale and tainted, not after everything that had happened. It had been over a year already — over twelve months since the body of a fourteen-year-old boy was found in the woods with three stab wounds arranged in a line across the chest as if he’d been forked with a trident. But it was not the time, so much. It was everything else. Too late, and the grand jury knew it.
I knew it, too.
Only Logiudice was undeterred. He pursed his lips in that odd way of his. He reviewed his notes on a yellow legal pad, considered his next question. He was doing just what I’d taught him. The voice in his head was mine: Never mind how weak your case is. Stick to the system. Play the game the same way it’s been played the last 500-odd years, use the same gutter tactic that has always governed cross-examination — lure, trap, f*ck.
Does it sound like your type of thriller?
Don't you love when an author's backstory is just as interesting as his or her fantastic new book? Take Taylor Stevens, for example, whose second Vanessa Michael Munroe novel, The Innocent, is featured in our January Whodunit column.
Self-employed spy Munroe has the difficult task of infiltrating a religious cult called "The Chosen" in order to rescue her best friend's kidnapped daughter. Sounds intense, right?
It just so happens that Stevens was born and raised in a very similar cult, the Children of God. Her education stopped at age 12, she hopped from country to country and lived (as she describes on her website) as a "worker bee child in a communal apocalyptic cult."
So before you check out The Innocent, read what Stevens had to say about the Children of God in our 7 questions interview. (And if you haven't read her first book, The Informationist, you should read that, too.)
Is Vanessa Michael Munroe your type of heroine? And does knowing an author's cool backstory entice you to read their book?
As part of our Best Books of 2011 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder whisks readers off to the Amazon, where her main characters are pummeled with bugs as big as ping-pong balls and threatened by the sinuous squeeze of an anaconda. Combining the page-turning plot of a thriller with memorable characters, fascinating moral dilemmas and the painstakingly precise prose that Patchett is known for, State of Wonder is a novel that people will still be reading—and talking about—years from now.
Breaking Point, the sequel to Dana Haynes' Crashers, doesn't lose any of its prequel's original momentum. Writes our reviewer, "This is a book for adrenaline junkies; it grabs you by the frontal lobes right at the outset, and doesn’t let go until the last page."
Featured in our Whodunit column, Breaking Point finds the Crashers--the government airplane crash investigators--racing for their own lives. They must unravel the mystery behind a crash as it burns around them and threatens to destroy the evidence.
We chatted with Haynes about his new book, what his shoes look like and much more. More than anything, I wanted to know: After writing Crashers and Breaking Point, are you afraid of airplanes? Click here to see his answer.
What about you? Does reading books about airplane crashes make you afraid to fly?
Breaking Point came out yesterday! Will you pick up a copy?
Our Mystery of the Month is original, twisted and gruesomely fascinating. Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar is a thriller unlike any other, in which a murderer manipulates an agency called "Sorry" that specializes in cleaning up other people's mistakes.
BookPage Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney writes, "Dark, demented, radical and grotesquely humorous, Sorry upends every convention of modern fiction craft, and brilliantly. Indeed, Sorry might well be the Mystery of the Year!"
In a 7 questions interview with BookPage, German novelist Zoran Drvenkar shared a handful of his favorite books and some excellent writing advice.
Does this dark thriller sound like your type of creepy read?
It's sinister, it's dark -- it's everything we'd hope from a debut thriller. S.J. Watson has crafted "unquestionably a suspenseful and gripping psychological thriller" of Before I Go to Sleep (Harper).
Its premise is familiar yet decidedly unique -- an amnesiac woman begins to spiral into paranoia, as each morning she awakes, she cannot remember her own life. How can she possible figure out the truth about her life, her marriage, anything, when she can't remember any of it?
Sounds intense, and so is this cool trailer:
Be sure to check our our interview with S.J. Watson!
Peter Spiegelman's fourth and newest thriller, Thick as Thieves, is one of our Whodunit picks for August, and reviewer Bruce Tierney called it "genre-defining" and "twisty as a corkscrew." No surprise there, as Spiegelman's book is not only the story of a "dream crime," but it is also one of the most exciting thrillers to hit shelves this summer.
Check out our Q&A with Spiegelman for his take on crime thrillers, great books and great writing.
And if you needed any more convincing about Thick as Thieves, here's the trailer:
Spiegelman's newest is already on shelves. Will you make room for it on your TBR list?
Chevy Stevens' Still Missing was one of my favorite suspense novels of 2010. It's a disturbing, sexy page-turner with a fantastic hook: What if a Realtor got abducted during an open house? (Remind me to never go to an open house by myself.)
I interviewed Chevy for BookPage.com back in July. I asked her about her characters, her writing process and the emotional repercussions of writing viscerally painful scenes . . . but what I was really interested in was when we'll be hearing from her again.
Now we know. On July 5, St. Martin's will publish Never Knowing, a companion book to Still Missing. Chevy gave me a preview of the novel in our interview:
Never Knowing isn’t a direct sequel, but it does have the same therapist, Nadine, who we met in Still Missing. Sara, the main character in Never Knowing, has a different dynamic with Nadine than Annie did, and also a unique energy of her own, so it’s interesting for me to see how that drives the story forward.
In Never Knowing, Sara is 34-years-old and happy—although she longs to learn about her birth parents. Here's more from the publisher's description:
She discovers her biological father is an infamous killer who’s been hunting women every summer for over thirty years. Sara tries to come to terms with her horrifying parentage — and her fears that she’s inherited more than his looks — with her therapist, Nadine, who we first met in Still Missing. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out your father is a killer is him finding out about you.
Eek! Sounds creepy to me. Did you read Still Missing? Will you read Never Knowing?
I linked to the book trailer for The Poison Tree a couple weeks ago, and I thought you'd be interested in this follow-up. I got my hands on the novel (Erin Kelly's debut) last week and finished the novel yesterday.
It is fantastic—a dark, sultry, obsessive love story/thriller with some very disturbing twists. Here's a bit more from The Poison Tree's review in BookPage:
Perfectly paced, it starts with a bang and teems with twists that will keep you guessing right up until its thrilling and shocking conclusion. Kelly masterfully ratchets up the suspense, constantly causing readers to reappraise what is true as well as which dark and dirty secret will be unearthed next, all while nimbly maneuvering back and forth in time to keep tensions running high.
Have you read this novel? What new releases have been calling your name?