Such is the method of John Lago, assassin, and the premise of The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn. Written as a [lengthy] DIY manual to future assassins of the . . . well . . . assassin company “HR, Inc.”, John Lago’s handbook is less instruction manual, more memoir intended to give the reader an insight into a typical job. The problem is, the job Lago is cataloging isn’t typical. First off, the target is one of three high-ranking partners in a story-high New York law firm, but he doesn’t know which one. Second, Lago isn’t the only one on the case. His attempts to woo Alice, one of the corporate ladies, to get insider info backfires when he discovers she’s working for the FBI - and going after the same target he is. Failure in his line of work is not an option, and Lago finds everything falling apart as he breaks every rule he writes.
The premise really is quite clever and entertaining. Lago’s story is action packed, with enough action sequences and twists and turns to get a movie made. As a character, he’s certainly comedic, providing genuine laugh-out-loud moments. His humorous anecdotes into the world of a hitman provide a genuinely new take on storytelling - after all, when was the last time we were really in the mind of a bad guy?
But, ultimately, despite being an entertaining distraction read, you’ll leave feeling a little bit cruddier about life in general and never wanting to accept any position with the word “intern” anywhere near the title. After you finish, you’ll find yourself craving a more descriptive book with more mature storytelling. Kuhn wrote an excellent novel, if you enjoy this type of a story (and you’ll be able to tell within 3-4 chapters if it’s your thing or not). The pace moves exceptionally fast, and the dialogue is snappy and down to the point. This works well for a movie script, but as a novel you’re planning on sitting down and really digging into, the ‘he said she said’ bing-bang-bong dialogue only detracts from the characters you’re trying to get to know. But, to be fair, there’s not a whole lot about the characters that are likeable, so maybe that's not a bad thing (especially in terms of Alice, who’s over-sexualization from the eyes of Lago makes you desperate to pick up Game of Thrones just to get in the multidimensional mind of Daenerys Targaryen).
That being said, if this kind of book is up your alley (Again, give it a few chapters.), you’ll enjoy it immensely. “Insightful thriller” may not be the best soundbite to use, but “clever, snarky, and action packed” just might do the trick. Lago’s snide comments inserted into the action sequences (like reminding the future assassins to use hand protection before picking up a glass shard to use as a shank) make this a prime novel for a big screen action comedy. I can almost see the screen freezing and the voice over reminding you about rule #4. It’s a plane ride reader - entertaining with plenty of chuckle-in-your-seat moments - but not one you’ll be choosing to write a character analysis about.