by Owen Laukkanen
Hardcover, 358 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
Read: March 24 – 26, 2015
Stevens felt his stomach drop out as he descended from the Black Hawk onto the Atlantic Prince‘s bow. Wondered how a Minnesota state cop found himself in this kind of predicament all the time.
You do kind of have to wonder about that, don’t you, Stevens? The readers, however, are just glad you do find yourself in these predicaments.
I don’t have a lot to say about The Stolen Ones that I didn’t have to say about Laukkanen’s previous novels. But let’s see what I can dig up.
Irina’s from Romania — not having the best life (but not a bad one, no matter what she thinks), so she’s easily suckered by a handsome American man into the chance to come here and become rich and famous. Her little sister, Catalina, comes along for the ride. Sure, they have to be smuggled into the country with a large number of women in a shipping container, but hey — it’s worth it, right? America! (cue the Neil Diamond song)
Once they get here, of course, rich and famous are out the window. The best they can hope for now is, alive and doing more than surviving. The shipping container is loaded onto a truck and driven through a variety of states, with drop offs at various brothels, strip clubs and nastier places, were a selection of the women are left behind. Along the way, Irina and Catalina attempt an escape — Irina makes it, Catalina doesn’t, and an off-duty Minnesotan sheriff’s deputy is dead.
Kirk Stevens is brought in to investigate the deputy’s death, and soon starts to figure out what’s going on. Which is clearly beyond the scope of his office, but hey! He’s conveniently just been named to a task force with the FBI and his buddy, Carla Windermere. The two race around the country, looking for Catalina (who they really don’t expect to find) and the rest of the women — and, more realistically, they want to stop the people who smuggled them into the country.
As always, Laukkanen does a great job with the villains of the piece — whatever the particular crime (or crimes, usually) that they’re committing, he makes them people. People with hopes, dreams, problems — not just committing crimes. In fact, for the most part Stevens and Windermere are distractions, complications — not the enemy, just an irritant (an irritant that gets worse and worse the further we get in the book).
The Stevens family is always a good way to ground these characters — Mrs. Stevens (can’t believe I forgot her name) gets to do more than nag Kirk about being safe and talk dirty to him. The whole 16-year-old daughter with boyfriend parallel to the safety of the Romanians was a bit too one the nose for me, but Laukkanen pulled it off. And when else is he going to have the “first boyfriend” story? In Book 5 with Stevens having flashbacks to this case? Nah, that wouldn’t have worked.
With 158 chapters in 358 pages, The Stolen Ones moves along at a good clip. The pacing’s tight, the narrative gripping — everything you want — and readers have come to expect — from this series. It makes for a decent jumping on point, too. Highly recommended.