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posted: 3/22/2014 5:45 AM

'Kill Fee' is compelling tale of amorality, greed

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  • A businessman sets up a lucrative sideline arranging hits in "Kill Fee" by Owen Laukkanen.

    A businessman sets up a lucrative sideline arranging hits in "Kill Fee" by Owen Laukkanen.

By Oline H. Cogdill
Associated Press

Contract killing in terms of profit-and-loss margins fuels Owen Laukkanen's enthralling new novel, "Kill Fee," in which a businessman sets up a lucrative sideline arranging hits.

Government contractor Michael Parkerson has devised Killswitch, a website where a hit can be ordered as easily as a pizza. The homicides are carried out by young veterans traumatized by their war experiences and brainwashed to become killing machines.

The scheme comes to the attention of Carla Windermere, a Minneapolis-based FBI agent, and Kirk Stevens, an investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, when they chase a young killer after witnessing a billionaire's murder. Windermere and Stevens bring out the best investigative instincts in each other, and this case takes them across the country following clues as to who's behind a string of seemingly unrelated killings.

"Kill Fee" works well as an in-depth police procedural and an insightful look at amorality and greed. Laukkanen employs the same strengths of brisk plotting and incisive character studies that he established in his first two novels.

Windermere and Stevens respect each other's intuitive skills while admitting there's an underlying attraction that neither will ever act on. Laukkanen doesn't use their relationship as a tease but rather as a reflection of the realistic platonic sexual tension that can exist between co-workers. His fresh storytelling keeps "Kill Fee" on target.

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