by Shane Kuhn
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Format Read: Kindle E-Book
Interns are invisible. That’s the mantra behind HR, Inc., an elite “placement agency” that doubles as a network of assassins-for-hire, taking down high-profile executives who wouldn’t be able to remember an intern’s name if their lives depended on it.
At the ripe old age of twenty-five, John Lago is already New York City’s most successful hit man. He’s also an intern at a prestigious Manhattan law firm, clocking eighty hours a week getting coffee, answering phones, and doing all the grunt work no one else wants to do. But he isn’t trying to claw his way to the top of the corporate food chain. He was hired to assassinate one of the firm’s heavily guarded partners. His internship is the perfect cover, enabling him to gather intel and gain access in order to pull off a clean, untraceable hit.
The Intern’s Handbook is John Lago’s unofficial survival guide for new recruits at HR, Inc. (Rule #4: “Learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee: you make an exec the best coffee he’s ever had, and he will make sure you’re at his desk every morning for a repeat performance. That’s repetitive exposure, which begets access and trust. 44% of my kills came from my superior coffee-making abilities.”)
Part confessional, part how-to, the handbook chronicles John’s final assignment, a twisted thrill ride in which he is pitted against the toughest—and sexiest—adversary he’s ever faced: Alice, an FBI agent assigned to take down the same law partner he’s been assigned to kill
If you ever are in a position to take a good look at an intern, do so. What do you see? You’ll see younger people, working for little or no money to try and get a foot into the business of their choice. They might do paperwork no one else wants to, they might make coffee or fetch things. They won’t be doing anything other than the menial. And so no one gives them a second thought. John writes the Intern’s Handbook; ostensibly in order to help out other recruits of HR Inc., but also to document this last case–because he is not an intern, but an assassin, and HR Inc. is his boss.
This book has been on my to-read list since it came out, and I was excited to have an opportunity to read it. The main thing that drew in me was the premise. I mean, it’s genius—intern assassins. I personally hate the thought of interns and interning, so it gave me more than a little pleasure to pick up a book about intern assassins…plus, you know, I’m always down for an action novel. When I picked up the short-story teaser, called ‘Casual Friday,’ I became even more excited. Shady Hollywood mob deals, a beautiful actress, noir cinema…it was everything that a book about intern assassins should also include. It was an enjoyable read, and my only complaint was the length—I wished that Casual Friday could have been a full-fledged novella. But then, looking at the Interns Handbook, maybe Casual Friday was better as a short story. The short story fulfilled the hype I expected from the premise. Interns Handbook, despite that fantastic starting idea, truly didn’t.
There were elements, of course, that I enjoyed. John Lago has a gritty, witty voice that is fairly unique. He describes gore with the same emotion that he describes his pretty fellow intern. He is utterly emotionless, tossing out scraps about his horrific childhood like they were nothing. At first I found the tone of the book somewhat alarming—but, if you’re reading a book about assassins, blood and gore goes with the subject. The first part of the book was also extremely well-done: John, expecting this to be a simple and easy assignment, quickly realizes that he’s out of his depth. Between a relationship with Alice, an attack on his life and trying to figure out which of the law partners is the criminal, he’s sinking deeper and deeper into a total mess. And, of course, he’s fighting back with every ounce of his skill and resources. This is the part that I always love, but it’s not the part that makes or breaks the book. That comes when the mess has to, somehow, be cleaned up and tied into a neat ending.
About halfway through, the plot fell apart. At this point you don’t know who is doing what, only that people are dying and strange things are happening. John becomes increasingly befuddled and increasingly drugged—the references to speed, adrenaline and alcohol are proportional to the page count. One minute, he and Alice are madly in love, the next they’re not speaking to each other. People die with absolutely no explanation, and the culprit varies wildly. There is one scene where John confronts his boss Bob that I unashamedly skipped, because even when reading it in a close and detailed way I couldn’t actually figure out what was going on. It went from John being drugged and locked in a room, to him fighting Bob in front of a host of interns, to them having the equivalent of a father-son talk. The climax scene, or what was probably supposed to be the climax scene, felt like the most unashamed rip-off of James Bond I have ever seen. By this, I mean it was a fight against 10+ thugs in a private jet. Yep, crazy spin maneuvers, hostage situation, cabin depressurization because of bullet holes…the whole nine yards.
The ending, however, was the most disappointing. There was a whole line-up of endings, as if the author couldn’t quite decide which one to actually pick, and none of them actually cleaned up the mess. Especially not after the sudden plot twist, where it turned out that a single comment half a book earlier was the reason for the entirety of John’s involvement in HR Inc., and furthermore that this entire assignment was a ruse to get access to someone else. It made the rest of the book seem false, in a way, that this tiny comment was supposed to be the crux of the plot, and of course, the amazing reveal of our hero’s family history gave it an aura of cheapness as well. The subsequent attempts at ending the book also felt false, down to the various touching reunions and realizations. The main idea, that it was a guide to other intern/assassins, also fell completely through. If there was a thing that John Lago did right and according to his own rules in the book, I missed it.
I love a good adventure book, emphasis on good. The best ones feel like an adrenaline rush…your heart beats faster, your hands can’t turn the pages fast enough, you start imagining scenarios involving your normal life only with car chases and secret plots. But The Intern’s Handbook, no matter how wonderful the original premise, at the end felt like the author had gotten rushed and crammed in every James-Bond adventure stereotype he could think of, just to get to a word count.
There is a sequel coming out soon, but I’m not going to be touching it. Seems interesting again, but from what I know of the author’s style now I’m sure I could get better action sequences and romance from watching Mr. And Mrs. Smith (and probably roughly the same plot, too).
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.