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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.

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