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Internecine by David J. Schow
Cover Artist: Tim Bradstreet
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312571368
Date: 03 August 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Conrad Maddox leads an ordinary life as an executive advertisement agent for Kroeger Concepts in Los Angeles. However, he learns that curiosity can be fatal when he finds a key, opens a locker and removes a Halliburton attaché case. Upon opening this "hit box" of weapons, latex gloves, and fake IDs, Conrad soon enters the world of the hired assassin. He becomes a pawn in a bloody, violent war - an internecine - to take over possession of NORCO, a secret, complex organization of hired assassins. Conrad is protected by a freelance hit man, Dandine, while fighting to stay alive and prevent NORCO from buying the governorship of California.

If you want to live the dangerous, but glamorous, life of an assassin, David J. Schow's Internecine is prerequisite reading. Dandine is the perfect assassin. You can learn a lot from him. Besides the hit box, the high tech surveillance equipment, the sports car, and the dark sun glasses, you'll need a sidekick. Dandine chooses the mild mannered Conrad (a.k.a. Connie, a.k.a. Mr. Lamb). Be prepared to change your name. Assassins are always changing their names. As an assassin, you'll need nerves of steel in order to always remain calm and react fast. Internecine is non-stop violence involving a lot of shootouts and high speed car chases. If you panic, you could die. You better also have a strong stomach for the blood and gore. Internecine has a high body count. Furthermore, expect to have your friends and associates double cross and betray you.

Most importantly, if you want to be an assassin, you better have a high tolerance for pain. Dandine is tortured. At least he won't have to worry about getting a manicure. No finger nails. (They’ve been ripped out!) No nipples either. (Don't ask!) Expect to spend a lot of time in the hospital because of gunshot wounds, broken bones, and burnt flesh. Your life as an assassin will also take you into the close confines of some really strange people. The strangest of Internecine are two elderly sisters who are actually two elderly men wearing Catholic habits. People pay for them to chain them up and cruelly abuse them. (Again, don't ask for details.) The torture supposedly strengthens their clients' characters.

The protagonist is Conrad Maddox. The story is told from his point of view. Internecine reads almost like a diary. This fast paced thriller takes place in less than one week. Devoid of chapters, it is divided into days. Initially, the self-serving, corporate-ladder climbing Conrad believes he is one of the Walking Dead - someone who is only going through the rote motions of everyday existence like a zombie. Along comes Dandine who becomes his savior, rescuing him from a female assassin who mistakes Conrad for Dandine. Soon Conrad becomes so enthralled by Dandine's world that he refuses to leave it, remaining forever at the side of the assassin. Dandine becomes Conrad's mentor, teaching him how to become an assassin. The reader realizes Conrad has metamorphosed into a more caring, selfless person when he risks his life to save his brother assassin, Dandine.

The antagonist of this novel is the evil NORCO, hidden beneath the streets of Las Angeles. The same streets upon which millions of tourists walk each year. NORCO is a powerful, complex organization of hired assassins. Having the ability to influence politicians, lawyers, and entertainers, it is the fodder of conspiracy theorists. Employing thousands, NORCO is the company you'd submit your resume to if you want to excel at being an assassin. In the hierarchy of assassins, they are top dog. (If you want to excel in the publishing industry, work for St. Martin's Press; if you want to excel in the world of e-commerce, work for Amazon.) However, unlike most companies, NORCO doesn't have a retirement plan. You can never leave NORCO alive. Someone at NORCO wants Dandine unplugged. Oh, I forgot to mention you must learn a new vocabulary if you become an assassin. Never use the word kill. Instead, use words that sound less menacing such as eliminate, unplug, demote, and neutralize.

Internecine will educate you in the world of the assassin. If nothing else, you'll learn a new word; I did; I'd never heard of internecine until I read this novel. Internecine is a fast action, bloody crime noir that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. One can't help but wonder if Conrad, so eager to escape his humdrum life, is imagining the entire week. Beautiful women, fast sports car, high tech rifles. For many guys, it sounds like a dream come true. Internecine reads like one of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. In fact, Dandine is often compared to James Bond.

Internecine has my stamp of approval. I highly recommend it along with other violent mysteries involving assassins such as David Black’s The Extinction Event, Adimchinma Ibe’s Treachery in the Yard, Blake Crouch’s Snowbound, Brian M. Wiprud’s Buy Back and Daniel Judson’s The Violet Hour.

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