Thursday, May 23, 2013

"April"'s Book: The Professionals

I'm finally almost caught up. It feels good.


The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
Thriller (2012 - 370 pp.)

This is Owen Laukkanen's first book, or at least first to be published on any kind of wide scale. It is about four university graduates who, unable to find jobs in this horrendous market, resort to kidnapping. The premise is great, as are Laukkanen's kidnappers, headed by (of course) one with a master's in English, Arthur Pender. His girlfriend and partner in crime, Marie McAllister, holds a history degree. As someone with a degree in history and English, I can attest to its being far from useless, but the satirical value alone deserves a smile.

Laukkanen's character development, foreshadowing, and grasp of American geography are among the defining features of the book. Each of his kidnappers share a multitude of experiences, something I think really binds the Millennial generation. Each event, from a kidnapping to which state's plates are on a given stolen car, builds toward the book's shocking climax that will not be divulged here. The book has virtually no falling action whatsoever, which does not present a problem. The plane and car chases across the United States are really well done, especially considering the Canadian-ness of the author (Canadian-ness and a certain affinity for the United States being traits I also possess). Some of the characters' flight patterns feel ill-conceived but that can be chalked up to the urgency they face rather than any authorial fault.

The few flaws are of the suspension of disbelief variety. How does a character who is genuinely shocked at the sight of a gun suddenly become such an adept street fighter less than a week later? How do some characters persist for days with gaping gunshot wounds, while others crumple and die in seconds? These and similar questions are perhaps best left unanswered. They do not take away from the enjoyment of the book, though, and are nowhere near as egregious as similar flaws found in the average James Bond movie. (Moonraker, of course, being in its own category altogether.)

As someone whose favourite character is Arthur Pender by a mile, and who found the kidnappers by far the most compelling characters (among the best scenes in the book are when their underlying motives and tensions surface), it is disappointing the next book will be about a police team I found uninspiring. Agents Stevens and Windermere play roughly the role Sandra Bullock's character does in Murder by Numbers. As much as I enjoyed The Professionals, I am unsure as to how excited I am to read Laukkanen's next book. Four university graduates, each with his or her own fun personality, turning to kidnapping, is a gripping story. A mismatched cop team... I suppose we will see.

Ease of Reading: 9
Educational Content: 2

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