“Interns are invisible. You can tell executives your name a hundred times and they will never remember it because they have no respect for someone at the bottom of the barrel, working for free. The irony is that they will heap important duties on you with total abandon. The more of these duties you voluntarily accept, the more you will get, simultaneously acquiring TRUST AND ACCESS. Ultimately, your target will trust you with his life and that is when you will take it.
So says John Lago, in his unofficial handbook for employees at Human Resources, Inc. — a false front for an organization of hitmen. He Handbook is part memoir, part confessional, part how-to, part the reflections of a professional
Along with nice tidbits like this, we get to see John’s last assignment for HRI — he’s sent in as an intern at a prestigious law firm to identify a shady partner and eliminate him. Having reached the ripe-old age of 25, retirement is looming (hard to believe someone in their late 20s is an intern anywhere), and he’s determined to go out on top. But for the first time in his illustrious career — things don’t go well for John. And when that starts to happen, it goes bad fast and in several different ways.
Bad for John, good for us — because watching him try to navigate out of trouble, while maintaining his cover is a blast. John’s a real professional, and whatever misgivings are starting to creep into his subconscious, his instincts are sound. Alice — initially, a fellow intern and competitor, and eventually, more — isn’t exactly what she seems, but is a fun character no matter what angle on the character we’re seeing. The head of HRI, Bob, is exactly the kind of shady, manipulative scoundrel you’d expect the executive behind an army of paid assassins to be.
By page 3, I’d written in my notes “smart, funny, sharp — if he keeps this up, I’ll be happy.” He did keep it up, and did better, there was an unexpected genuine heart in this book (particularly the last couple of chapters). The voice was fitting (and great) — as a fan of movies like Grosse Pointe Blank and The Whole Nine Yards, John’s less-than-charitable musings on pop culture depictions of his field were quite amusing and had the ring of truth. The action scenes were well-written, you could see everything (usually from the edge of your seat). Recommended.