Finn du siècle, or Owen Laukkanen's balancing act
I very briefly regretted reading The Professionals, Owen Laukkanen's first novel, only after I'd read (and thought highly of) his second, Criminal Enterprise. References in the second book rob the first of a bit of its suspense. But I quickly adjusted and concentrated on how Laukkanen built that character in a way that held my interest even though I knew more or less what would happen to him.
Built is an important word in this discussion because Laukkanen assembles his ingredients with the care of a skilled pastry chef, though the result is a pretty explosive pastry.
Here's what I mean: The kidnappers in The Professionals (like the bank robber in Criminal Enterprise) turn to crime because their college educations are useless in today's job market. Laukkanen gives us enough of that background to distinguish them from other fictional criminals, but not so much that he whacks us over the head with sociology.
On the right side of the law, Laukkanen offers as protagonists a married, male, mid-career state police officer and a beautiful, younger female FBI agent who wind up on the road a lot as the crimes cross state lines. Romantic tension? Sure, but no soap opera, no mid-life crisis, no over-the-top, should-I-or-shouldn't-I angst. Laukkanen's Officer/Agent Stevens is much closer to Brian McGilloway's Benedict Devlin than he is to the male crime protagonists who lie by your bed in messy, unhappy, poorly dressed, divorced, alcoholic heaps. Stevens is an ordinary guy occasionally called upon to do extraordinary things. And then are the two rich college girls who fall in with the gang and don't do quite what one might expect without, however, behaving exactly counter to type, either.
But really, the books are thrillers. Heists happen, cops investigate, and Laukkanen lets us know just enough about each to hold our interest until the two collide.
(Laukkanen's third novel, Kill Fee, is due for release in March.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2013