There is a lot to love about Shane Kuhn’s debut novel, The Intern’s Handbook. The concept itself first and foremost. John Lago, age twenty five, is a professional hitman employed by HR, Inc. about to embark on his last assignment before retirement. Because at HR, Inc., all employed assassins do their jobs under the brilliant cover of nameless, faceless interns.
Whether out of a sense of responsibility, nostalgia, or maybe even ego, Lago has written this handbook to pass on to the up and coming assassins - always orphans, always those who grew up abandoned and unloved - who will follow in his legendary footsteps, sharing tips and tricks of the trade for those who want to live to see the mandatory retirement age of twenty five.
Kuhn gives his protagonist a wicked sense of gallows humor and enough of a dysfunctional childhood to justify his sociopathic career path. John Lago is may be a killer, but he’s a killer with a heart. The humor and fast plot pace and twists should have been enough to make this novel a winner on all levels. Yet it still fell short and this is why:
John Lago’s self-deprecating humor is what hooks the reader from the very first chapter. Confiding that the assassin’s life is nothing like Hollywood portrays it to be is a large part of Lago’s charm and character. So when the author then places Lago in scenes that are exactly like Hollywood portrays them, both the character and the story loses authenticity. The novel then becomes just another shoot ‘em up, beat ‘em up, blow ‘em up, testosterone filled blood bath. Which is a shame given the potential of the first few chapters.
The upshot? It’s a library checkout for a few good laughs and an author worth keeping an eye on as he hones his craft.
Title: The Intern’s Handbook
Author: Shane Kuhn
Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Advance Reading Copy