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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read Casual Friday for FREE (prequel short story) 
Read Qwill’s interview with Shane Kuhn 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Shane Kuhn is a writer and filmmaker with twenty years of experience working in the entertainment business and the ad world. A shameless product pusher in the ad world, he has worked as a copywriter, creative director, and broadcast video director and producer for several notable brands and charitable organizations. As a college baseball player, he threw a fastball in the low 90s but his career was cut short by a Bull Durham strike zone. The Intern’s Handbook is his debut. He currently lives with his wife and family in a bi-coastal/mountain migration pattern that includes Massachusetts, Colorado, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: John Lago is a hitman. He has some rules for you and he's about to break every single one.

John Lago is a very bad guy. But he’s the very best at what he does. And what he does is infiltrate top-level companies and assassinate crooked executives while disguised as an intern.

Interns are invisible. That’s the secret behind HR, Inc., the elite “placement agency” that doubles as a network of assassins for hire who take down high-profile targets that wouldn’t be able to remember an intern’s name if their lives depended on it.

At the ripe old age of almost 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 actual employees are too lazy to do. He was hired to assassinate one of the firm’s heavily guarded partners. His internship provides the perfect cover, enabling him to gather intel and gain access to pull off a clean, untraceable hit.

Part confessional, part DIY manual, The Intern’s 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.

CLASSIFICATION: Lisa Lutz aptly described it as “The Intern's Handbook is Dexter meets Office Space—the blackest and goriest office comedy you could imagine, with an intern-slash-assassin in the starring role.

FORMAT/INFO: The Intern’s Handbook is 288 pages long divided over forty-four numbered & titled chapters. Narration is in the first person solely via John Lago. This is book one of the John Lago series. Casual Friday is the prequel short story set nearly eight years ago & is currently FREE on Amazon.

April 8th, 2014 marked the hardback and e-book publication of The Intern’s Handbook via Simon and Schuster. It was also published as Kill Your Boss on January 2, 2014 in the UK by Little Brown.

ANALYSIS: There are some books that draw you in with their blurb descriptions about their protagonists such as Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells, Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazzell, etc and then completely hook you in with the content matter. The Intern’s Handbook seemed to be another such book and I couldn’t wait to read it and see how it would pan out.

The story begins as a series of chapters in a handbook that details the life of John Lago, one of the best assassins that Human Resources Inc. has to offer. He’s on the verge of becoming twenty-five years old and that means that he can no longer do what he does best. That seems ironical but the way HR Inc has become so proficient at their work, is because they send out people who are below the age of twenty five as interns and who are trained to be deadly killers. John Lago was inducted into HR Inc when he was twelve years old, he along with a group of twenty-six other like-minded individuals made up the batch. Only three remain and all of them are superbly efficient. John is given one last mission and after that he can decide whether to retire or not.

His last assignment is to infiltrate New York’s most prestigious law firm; Bendini, Lambert & Locke. However the biggest drawback of the assignment is that there’s no target yet. Sure there’s someone to be terminated however he will have to ingratiate himself with all the senior members, keep his intern status and find out who the target is. Not an easy job but one John is prepared for. His biggest problem however comes in the form of Alice, who starts as part of his assignment but ends up complicating his life. This final assignment will be prove to be his nadir as he unlearns all that he gleaned so far and he still has to find out whom he has to kill, to finish it.

The Intern's Handbook is Shane Kuhn's debut and a super fun story. John’s handbook for recent recruits is a handbook as well as his biography. I couldn’t stop reading once the story began and along with the twists, the story is told with a very dark comedic tone that helps massively. Here are a few examples of the author’s humor:

The shortest distance between truth and bullshit is six feet straight down.”

Hip-hop, you have f***** the King’s English for life, good on you.”

He calls himself a ‘big picture guy’, this is a Business 3.0 way of saying he doesn’t give a shit about anything but the bottom line.” 

44% of my kills came from my superior coffee-making ability. It’s simple, puts you in direct contact with the target and it can be a vector for a variety of weapons.

Also similar to Columbus’ list of rules for survival in Zombieland, John has a set of rules that are interspersed between the chapters and which further help elucidate why he’s considered to be one of the best. The pace of the story is of the rapid kind as the twists pile on; it becomes even harder to put this down. Trust me you don’t want to start this book in the evening as that way you’ll end up reading late in the night till the story ends. Do what I did, reserve time for it and then read and chuckle along as the tale unfolds.

The main protagonist is the big draw of the story as we get a hitman who while young in age, has developed a cynical attitude that seems more proper in one who would be in the 40-plus age range. John’s observations and his rules make the book stand out completely and kudos to the author for his top-drawer characterization. While we don’t get to much about the side character cast, they aren’t the two-dimensional ones and add to the character dynamic in many more ways. And to top it all, the climax of the story is quite an unpredictable one, which goes on to add to the charm of the book. Plus after reading the very last page, readers will definitely be clamoring for a sequel.

With such stories, there are always points that go against it, for me the only point that didn't seem to gel was the fact that towards the latter third of the story, John Lago battles the antagonists who don't quite use all the weapons (both literally & figuratively) in their arsenal. Perhaps the author will shine a further light on this aspect in the sequels but for now, this point seemed a bit weak. In the end this was a dark, quirky assassin story that pays homages to several films and silver screen characters and takes a rather funny route towards its unpredictable climax.

CONCLUSION: The Intern’s Handbook is a rip-roaring tale of an intern cum assassin, who plans to retire young but as often as it does with best-laid plans, his journey never goes where he plans it to be. This tale is quite apt for fans of the Dexter series, The Spellman Files & the John Wayne Cleaver trilogy. Make sure you don’t miss The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn, as far as debuts go, this one hits the bullseye.



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