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January 22, 2014 / schulerbooks

Kill Fee, by Owen Laukkanen

9780399165528

Somewhere in America, there’s a rich man who turns the less fortunate into killers.

He’s got skills, a pattern, and a plan, this high-tech Svengali. Give him your poor, shattered castaways and he can transform them into something broken, obedient, and lethal. Before long he’ll have them snapping to attention and doing whatever they’re told, because he’s the only one who can make the visions go away.

Visions that can shatter a man’s mind, and leave him just south of human — perfect for his murderous purposes.

Unfortunately for that avaricious fellow, when one of his hollow men goes to Saint Paul to kill an extremely wealthy target, the assassin is made after the deed. Worse, he’s seen by a well-matched pair of law enforcement officers — state investigator Kirk Stevens and FBI special agent Carla Windermere — who’ve taken down a post-college kidnap ring (The Professionals) and a dangerous gang of quasi-suburban bank robbers (Criminal Enterprise).

Of course, by the time they realize what they’ve actually seen, the murderer’s on a plane for home. However, when they pool resources and go after the culprit, following what appears to be a poorly-hidden paper trail, the man they arrest is not the hollow-eyed man they saw striding away from the crime scene in Saint Paul…

Still stinging from this error, the duo redouble their efforts, and uncover a high-tech web of murder for hire. But every time they try to go through official channels, their paths are mysteriously blocked by higher forces. And with each wrong turn they make, more bodies are added to the list.

Can Windermere and Stevens solve this deadly riddle before the master of assassins turns his broken soldiers against them? Or will the hollow-eyed man they saw in Minnesota — slowly regaining his humanity — beat them to it, provided his master’s new toy doesn’t get to him, first…?

Once again, Owen Laukkanen has produced a fast and furious thriller, full of mayhem and misdirection. The relationship between Stevens and Windermere (now truly a family affair after the last novel, reviewed here) becomes even more complex in this installment. And while the chief antagonist suffers from a bad case of “I’m evil just because,” the two victims he has out doing his dirty work are masterpieces in sympathetic villains — continuing Laukkanen’s well-honed skill at giving us a villain to fear and yet pity.

Kill Fee drops March 26th. If you haven’t picked up his two previous novels (The Professionals and Criminal Enterprise) yet, you should definitely read them first — available at all four Schuler Books and Music locations!

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