Written by Shane Kuhn — Trained killer John Lago is in prison, held by the FBI in Quantico, Virginia for a variety of violent crimes. Assistant Director Winton ‘Fletch’ Fletcher is his interrogator. Lago used to work for an elite contract assassination firm, Human Resources Inc and its this company Fletch wants to know about. But Lago has another person on his mind – his equally murderous ex-wife, Alice, who was also an HR Inc employee.
Flipping back three years, it seems HR Inc is finished. Lago’s boss and company overlord is killed. Lago, who’s been a contract killer since he was a child, is finally free. He and Alice get married, but quickly get bored of their now relatively quiet lives and need some people to kill. The pair got their biggest kicks from killing people, particularly the least worthy. As a result they decide to take over the defunct HR Inc for themselves, re-employ all the staff and take on hits again.
But it’s when they go into business together that the trouble begins for the loving killers. Each has a different opinion as to how the company should be run and what jobs they should take. Lago thinks a shadowy figure pulled the strings at HR Inc – who did Bob actually work for?
Mistrust begins to creep into their relationship. Eventually the pair fall out and with deadly consequences and Alice tries to take out Lago. With the help of an HR Inc employee, Lago disappears, letting Alice believe he’s dead, so he can find that shadowy figure. Events soon come full circle resulting in Alice and Lago going head to head. Who will die?
Shoot the Messenger (published in the US as Hostile Takeover) is the sequel to Kill Your Boss (The Intern’s Handbook). The novel pretty much picks up where Kill Your Boss left off once the introductory chapters, where Lago is being interviewed by the FBI in the present day, are presented. Thereafter most of the action occurs in the past and serves to explain how Lago ends up in the hands of the FBI.
Like its predecessor, Shoot the Messenger is strong on wit, sarcasm and black humour. It’s an entertaining page turner with plenty of laughs within. Initially the sparks are provided by Lago and his wife, later it’s with Shirley (a man) when he becomes Lago’s sidekick as they try and take out Alice. The narrative is told in the first person, so we sit firmly within the twisted mind of Lago, but this time his murderous style is modified by his love, then hate, for Alice.
It’s this characterisation and their resulting behaviours that makes Shoot the Messenger so much fun. Unfortunately the first third of the novel is a little pedestrian while it flips back and forth between the past and Lago’s conversations with the FBI man. But the pace picks up dramatically as the conclusion is reached. Lago and Alice’s attraction to each other, even through their mutual hatred, is amusing and the variety of methods they employ in an attempt to kill each other is fun. Ultimately the conclusion is very well done and HR Inc’s puppet master is revealed.
If you like dark humour and don’t mind suspending a degree of belief in the pursuit of enjoyment, this is the novel for you.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars