Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War. I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)
The book's high concept is appealing. Orphans are trained from childhood to be assassins. They and their boss, Bob, are employed by HR, Inc., whose personnel masquerade as interns so that they can gain access to their important targets, using the virtual invisibility of the intern.
John Lago, 25, is sent to the most powerful law firm in New York to kill whichever of the name partners is selling out members of the Witness Protection program to the highest bidder. Lago is a veteran HR employee––since anybody older than mid-20s being an unpaid intern would be conspicuous––and this is to be his last job before retirement. The book takes the form of Lago's first-person narrative, told as if he is providing the benefit of his wisdom to trainees at HR.
Since author Kuhn is a screenwriter, he must be familiar with Grosse Pointe Blank and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Now there were a couple of movies that made hired killers appealing, and wildly violent scenes fresh, thrilling and funny. Kuhn doesn't manage either here. Though Kuhn tries to humanize Lago with some personal stories and a love for movies, he doesn't pull it off; you never get a real feel for the character.
The plot is a revolving door of wisecracking dialogue, followed by a scene of orgiastic violence, followed by a reminiscence of Lago's earlier life, followed by a description of the setup for the latest job. It's fun the first time, but the repeats quickly stale until the book becomes a chore to read. The tone is all over the place, too.
On top of that, Shane Kuhn clearly knows nothing whatsoever about how law firms work. He has John Lago bone up on wills and torts for his internship, and the man in charge of the firm's internship program is a walking violation of the anti-discrimination handbook. The more serious problem is that big-time law firms don't hire unpaid interns to compete for a slot as an associate. There was absolutely nothing about the lawyers or the law firm that was remotely plausible.
Since most readers probably don't know the details of how law firms work, it might not matter that Kuhn gets the environment so wrong. I might not have cared much either, if the plot and characterization had been strong. But the kicker, for me at least, is that the law firm setting was actually irrelevant because nothing in the story's action relies at all on Lago being an intern or working at a law firm. I really had to wonder if Kuhn took a great concept, but then just slapped it on a standard hired-killer plot.
I give Shane Kuhn credit for having that great concept and for writing some occasionally entertaining dialogue. Who knows; maybe somebody can turn it into an interesting screenplay. Wouldn't that be a twist?
Note: Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, and Amazon's Vine program, for providing an advance reviewing copy. The book will be published on April 8, 2014.