In the wreckage of America’s economic crash, four university grads grouse over pizza about their dim career prospects. “No one’s making money but investment bankers,” grumbles one, adding: “I want to rob those bastards. Think about it. A couple of big scores and then we could retire.” Like that, a kidnapping squad is born. The group ultimately opts for small scores—garden-variety millionaires with quick access to, say, $60,000 in ransom payment. They hop from state to state in order to keep the cops off their trail.
The Professionals might have been conceived as a novel for our times—Gen Y’s existential lament. But the socio-economic commentary peters out as Laukkanen, a first-time author based in Vancouver, unfurls his Jan de Bont plotline. Happily, he’s an action-thriller natural, with a facility for dialogue and depictions of random violence. The gang gets in hot water after strongman Sawyer unexpectedly offs a hostage connected to the mob, and the four must scramble to stay ahead of their enemies. By then, they’re running from a Minnesota police detective and a foxy female FBI agent, who spent much of the book trying to tamp down their mutual attraction.
The author takes plenty of licence: the gang’s computer whiz (nom de guerre: “Mouse”) survives long enough with a gunshot wound to his chest to set medical records. But this isn’t Jane Austen, and Laukkanen more than compensates with clear-eyed rendering of post-boom America. It won’t spoil the outcome to reveal that one of the crew winds up at death’s door, advising his ringleader as the police close in: “When you make this into a movie, I hope you’ll give me more muscle definition.” Maybe for the character, but certainly not the story. The Professionals has muscle to spare.