Book Review: ‘Kill Fee’ by Owen Laukkanen

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Rating: 4 / 5

In downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, a billionaire is killed by a sniper.  FBI special agent Carla Windemere and state investigator Kirk Stevens are witnesses, and soon brought on to help solve the case.  While in pursuit, they realize that other random acts of violence across state lines are linked to this, and the killer has multiple identities. When they discover that there is a website where people can pay to have someone eliminated, Stevens and Windemere are pressed for time to prevent the next murder from happening.  Going against them are the fact that they don’t know who the sniper is, where he is from, and who he is working with.

Kill Fee is the third installment in the Windemere and Stevens series, and like most series, I highly recommending reading the first two novels, The Professionals and Criminal Enterprise, before this one.  Kill Fee is still good on its own, but the first two lay the groundwork for the relationship, both personal and professional, between Windemere and Stevens (not to mention that The Professionals and Criminal Enterprise are great plot driven mysteries).

Kill Fee uses quick short chapters (think James Patterson) to make the story move, and it is indeed a very fast-paced novel.  Kill Fee struck a nerve with me since I had recently read David Finkel’s Thank You For Your Service and better understand the conditions soldiers returning from combat face in attempting to rehabilitate and acclimate to a civilian lifestyle. I’m not sure how realistic some parts of the story were, namely the torture and kidnapping of the websites’ recruits, but nonetheless, the manipulation is enough to keep the pages turning.

I liked Kill Fee, but I loved The Professionals and Criminal Enterprise, and I think it’s because of who the ‘bad guy’ is in Kill Fee.  In his previous novels, I felt that the criminals were everyday people that either got caught up in something bad that inadvertently escalated and got out of control, or they resorted to a crime because of a lack of other options, and pressure to keep up appearances.  With Kill Fee, the motivating factor was greed, and therefore I felt like this installment a little bit of edge, or what made Laukkanen’s characters different.

The Bottom Line: Kill Fee is a solid fast-paced thriller and a great addition to the Windemere and Stevens series.

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