I started reading this series before I even knew that it was a series. I found the premise of the first novel (The Professionals) to be very interesting so I picked up the book just over a month after it was released. Then I followed quickly with each of the others. But getting to this one took me a while, not because of a dwindling interest, but because things changed and I wasn't reading as much as I was in the past. But once I realized this was out, I picked it up and wanted to power through it.
The first thing that I got from this book was that it was going to end up even darker than the previous book which dealt with the topic of sex trafficking. Laukkanen seemed to think that wasn't dark enough, and has now jumped into the topic of teen suicide and the places on the Internet that they go. As a new father, this is definitely something that freaks me out, but it is something that I also know happens and is sad. Combine this with Dear Evan Hansen (an absolutely amazing show, fwiw, but I would say see it with the Broadway cast if you can), and you have some modern entertainment for me revolving around this topic. While Dear Evan Hansen brought me and my wife to tears, this used the topic to drive some additional character development in the series while also having great pacing and action.
The novel starts with a suicide at Stevens' daughter's high school. And with that there is a police investigation which leads Stevens and Windermere into the seedy underbelly of the Internet. And that is when we learn the antagonist of this story, a man named Randall Gruber who spends his time on these forums pushing these teens into suicide in order to sell the footage to make money. Gruber does all of this because he was abused as a teen and this is how he takes control of his life.
After discovering this, Stevens and Windermere end up able to convince their boss that this is a federal crime. There was a lot of questions as to whether this is something they could even investigate given that it may be considered free speech under, but given the nature of the beast as Windermere's drive to solve this, their boss let them investigate this case deeply. Why is Windermere so driven to solve this? We find out that she feels responsible for not stopping one of her friends from committing suicide in high school. This drive pushes the team through many times when they could have just stopped and it takes Windermere up to the edge and maybe over it in the pursuit of Gruber.
From a non-plot line perspective, I loved the pacing of this book. Quick, bite sized chapters that lasted probaly at the most five minutes. Laukkanen's ability to write this way is great for a subway reader as I never have to leave the story in the middle, and I appreciate that. It also has me on the "just one more chapter" mindset at night that keeps me reading and pushing through a novel.
**Quick Review: ** 4 stars out of 5