The most glaring flaw in The Professionals (A Stevens and Windermere Novel) is that these characters are so clearly not. For a group of savvy college grads who have turned to a life of kidnapping/ransom capers to strike it rich, the mistakes are glaringly sophomoric. Instead of patterning themselves after superhero movies, maybe these folks should have paid more attention to the crime dramas that highlight the very mistakes that makes this group easy prey for both BCI investigator Kent Stevens and FBI agent Carla Windermere, not to mention a mob family that puts a hit out on the baby crooks.
The premise is interesting, if flawed: demand ransoms under a hundred thousand dollars from people who can take the loss without much pain, like stockbrokers and multi-millionaires, make the phone call, pick up the money and return the victim after one night of discomfort. It’s worked well for three years, the four college graduates stacking up nice nest eggs in offshore accounts. Of course, crossing state lines in pursuit of criminal enterprise ups the ante should these three guys and a gal attract the attention of law enforcement. Like life, everything goes as planned until it doesn’t.
The computer nerd tasked with choosing the right victims picks the wrong target in Detroit—a man with heavy mob connections—throwing the merry band of thieves directly into the crosshairs of organized crime and a very angry wife. A fatal misstep by one of the gang compounds the outrage, requiring an immediate retaliation by the mob while bringing the law into the equation. From here, it’s all downhill. The joint efforts of Stevens and Windermere have finally gotten results in the slow-moving law enforcement bureaucracy as a perfect plan begins to unravel quicker than the panicked gang can think of escape plans.
Newcomer Laukkanen gets much of it right: tempo, bad decisions and an even worse reaction to their first major mistake, a choice that ultimately tears the whole scheme apart. Once the “professionalism” is lost—and the ability to think rationally in spite of danger—pretty much any semblance of logic disappears, the gang prone to rash judgments and fatal errors. It would help if any of these characters were likeable, but the pseudo Robin Hoods haven’t much to recommend them, and the BCI and FBI agents don’t offer much more, falling into predictable roles, engaging in a mild flirtation and clearly setting the groundwork for a future series.
What seemed like a good idea and plausible plot in the beginning gets bogged down in too many loose ends, the slick graduates with a master plan quickly reduced to an amateur gang in too deep to ever escape to that desert island of the future. Halfway through, we’ve already headed toward the finish line, idealistic crooks no more interesting or clever than most, victims of greed in spite of their best intentions. What-if disintegrates into now-what as each man (and the girl) learn the fallacy of their scheme. Ho hum.