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Book Author: Owen Laukkanen

CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE by Owen Laukkanen: Book Review

When a “good” man turns bad, there are bound to be questions.  Was he always evil and kept it hidden, or were circumstances too much for him to deal with, forcing him to turn evil?  Such are the questions that every reader of Criminal Enterprise will ask, and each reader will have to answer for herself or himself.

Carter Tomlin was a happy man.  He had an important job with a big salary, a loving wife, and two darling daughters.  He lived in a mini-mansion in Minneapolis and drove a Jaguar.  But then came the economic downturn in 2007-08.  Carter was laid off from his job and things started to turn bad.  He was about to fall behind on his mortgage payments, his wife took a temporary teaching job she hated, and his daughters had a long list of Christmas presents they had to have.  He felt like a failure, that he was “less of a man” for not supporting his family.

He started a small accounting business but that wasn’t able to bring in the amount of money he felt he needed.  So, on the spur of the moment, he bought a clumsy disguise, walked into a Bank of America branch, and came away with eighteen hundred dollars.  His second robbery yielded three thousand dollars, but that still wasn’t sufficient to cover his expenses.  So Carter got some guns, and things escalated from there.  Like a road map, readers can follow the step-by-step moral disintegration of Carter Tomlin.

Criminal Enterprise brings together the two protagonists in Own Laukkanen’s first novel, The Professionals (reviewed on this blog).  FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere and Special Investigator Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehensions teamed together to bring down Arthur Pender and his accomplices.  After that, Kirk’s wife Nancy made it clear that she didn’t want him working with the FBI again. “I married a cop…I knew what I was getting into.  But this hero stuff doesn’t work.  Not for me, Kirk.”  And Kirk totally understands.  It’s just that his state job now seems so tame by comparison, and he doesn’t have the camaraderie with his BCA officers that he had with Carla.

Carla is feeling the same way about her fellow FBI agents, most particularly her current partner.  He seems to have trouble with a female partner, especially one who made headlines on her last case.  He’s the one with seniority, and he wants her to follow in his footsteps, not step out on her own.

The novel is told from three main points of view, and each one pulls the reader more deeply into the story.  Carter Tomlin takes the reader into the world of entitlement that he is losing, his fear of letting his family down, his growing need for more action and violence in his criminal enterprises.  Kirk Stevens is a man who loves his wife and his children but is still tempted by the excitement he felt on the Pender case.  Carla Windermere is sure that her feelings about Carter are right and that her partner’s shooting of the man he thinks is the criminal they’re looking for is wrong.

Owen Laukkanen has written a terrific follow-up to The Professionals.  His characters and their motivations are right on; you won’t be able to put this novel down.

You can read more about Owen Laukkanen at his web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

THE PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen: Book Review

In today’s down economy, a group of four college graduates don’t want to settle for low-paying, entry-level jobs. No, they have dreams, and the dreams require money.  So these enterprising friends decide on a Five Year Plan, an “easy” way to make big bucks–they’ll stage a series of abductions across the country, ask the families for an amount of money that is easy for the families to access overnight, release the abducted person, and then be on their way to another state, another job, with no one looking for them.  No one gets hurt, either physically or financially, except for the overnight scare of being kidnapped.  After a few such jobs, they can divide the loot, split up (except for one of the men and his girlfriend), and live the lives they desire.  Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  And it is.

In Owen Laukkanen’s debut novel, The Professionals, all goes well for a time, thanks in part to meticulous planning on the part of the group’s leader, Arthur Pender. But when one of the abductions doesn’t work out, they quickly decide to abduct another man in the same city.  After all, they’d driven to Detroit to do a job, and they want to do one.  So they don’t do their homework, and everything goes wrong.  The man they kidnap is the son-in-law of a mob boss, and when one of the gang gets panicked and kills the man, things quickly fall apart.  And then they just keep getting worse.

Kirk Stevens of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Carla Windermere of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are working together to find the people responsible for these kidnappings. Kirk is brought into the investigation because a previous abduction, a non-violent one, took place in Minneapolis; when it becomes obvious that the case is bigger than this one crime, the FBI is brought in.

Together they make a very good pairing.  Kirk is an experienced veteran, formerly on the Minneapolis police force, and Carla is a lawyer who is relatively new to the F.B.I.  The case, which to Kirk had seemed easy at first, veers almost out-of-control as the four kidnappers flee from state to state one step ahead of the investigators.   And the gang of four find themselves deeper and deeper into trouble.

The Professionals is a terrific novel for any writer, new or established. It is peopled by fascinating characters, nearly all of whom have a claim on your sympathy.  And when four kidnappers and a mob killer can be made sympathetic, for at least part of the time, the author has done an incredible job.

Set in Minnesota at the beginning of the novel, Kirk Stevens remarks several times that there’s not too much crime there.  For the sake of Owen Laukkanen’s readers, I hope he’s wrong. I’m looking forward to the next novel in the series featuring Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere, and I hope it’s not too far off.

You can read more about Owen Laukkanen at his web site.