Book Blast – Quercus – Inhuman Resources Extract Chapter One
Welcome to this week’s Book Blast hosted by Quercus Books! Today I am sharing an extract from Inhuman Resources by the very talented and much appreciated French Noir master Pierre Lemaitre. I have never had an opportunity to read a ‘workplace thriller’ but I am excited to give it a go ! Enjoy the extract and keep an eye out for plenty more details surrounding Inhuman Resources this week in social media.
06.09.2018 / MacLehose Press (Quercus) / Thriller / Hardback / 400pp / 978-0857059901
About Inhuman Resources
A darkly compelling workplace thriller from the master of French Noir
Alain Delambre is a 57-year-old former HR executive, drained by four years of hopeless unemployment.
All he is offered are small, demoralizing jobs. He has reached his very lowest ebb, and can see no way out.
So when a major company finally invites him to an interview, Alain Delambre is ready to do anything, borrow money, shame his wife and his daughters and even participate in the ultimate recruitment test: a role-playing game that involves hostage-taking.
Alain Delambre commits body and soul in this struggle to regain his dignity.
But if he suddenly realised that the dice had been loaded against him from the start, his fury would be limitless.
And what began as a role-play game could quickly become a bloodbath.
Inhuman Resources – Extract
I’ve never been a violent man. For as long as I can remember, I have never wanted to kill anyone. The odd flare of the temper, sure, but never any desire to inflict proper pain. To destroy. So,when it did happen, I suppose it took me by surprise. Violence islike drinking or sex – it’s a process, not an isolated phenomenon. We barely notice it set in, quite simply because we are ready for it, because it arrives at precisely the right moment. I was perfectly aware that I was angry, but I never expected it to turn to cold fury.
That’s what scares me.
And to take it out on Mehmet, of all people . . .
The guy’s a Turk. He’s been in France for ten years, but his vocabulary is worse than a ten-year-old’s. He has only two settings: either he’s shouting his head off, or he’s sulking. When he’s angry, he lets rip in a mixture of French and Turkish. You can’t understand a word, but you never doubt for a second what he means.
Mehmet is a supervisor at Pharmaceutical Logistics, my place of work. Following his own version of Darwin’s theory, the moment he gets promoted he starts disparaging his former colleagues, treating them like slithering earthworms. I’ve come across people like him throughout my career, and not just migrant workers. No, it happens with lots of people who start out at the bottom. As soon as they begin climbing the ladder, they align themselves wholeheartedly with their superiors, and even surpass them in terms of sheer determination. The world of work’s answer to Stockholm Syndrome. The thing is, Mehmet doesn’t just think he’s a boss. He becomes the boss incarnate. He is the boss as soon as the boss is out the door. Of course, at this company, which must employ two hundred staff, there’s not a big boss as such, just managers. But Mehmet is far too important to be a humble manager. No, he subscribes to an altogether loftier, more intangible concept that he calls “Senior Management”, a notion devoid of meaning (round here, no-one even knows who the senior managers are) yet heavy with innuendo: the Way, the Light, the Senior Management. In his own way, by scaling the ladder of responsibility, Mehmet is moving closer to God. I start at 5.00 a.m. It’s an odd job (when the salary is this low, you have to say it’s “odd”). My role involves sorting cardboard
boxes of medication that are then sent off to far-flung pharmacies. I wasn’t around to see it, but apparently Mehmet did this for eight years before he was made “supervisor”. Now he is in the proud position of heading up a team of three office drones, which is not to be sniffed at.
The first drone is called Charles. Funny name for a guy of no fixed abode. He is one year younger than me, thin as a rake and thirsty as a fi sh. I say “of no fixed abode” to keep things simple, but he does actually have an abode. An extremely fixed one. He lives in his car, which hasn’t moved for five years. He calls it his “immobile home”. That’s typical of Charles’ sense of humour. He wears a diving watch the size of a satellite dish, with dials all over the place, and a fluorescent green bracelet. I haven’t got a clue where he’s from or how he ended up in these dire straits. He’s a funny one, Charles. For instance, he has no idea how long he’s been on the social housing waiting list, but he does keep a precise tally of the time that has passed since he gave up renewing his application. Five years, seven months and seventeen days at the last count. Charles counts the time that has elapsed since he lost any hope of being rehoused. “Hope,” he says, as he raises his index finger, “is a pack of lies invented by the Devil to reconcile men with their lot.” That’s not one of his, I’ve heard it before somewhere else. I’ve searched for the quote but never managed to track it down. Just goes to show that behind his veneer of drunkenness, he is a man of culture.
The other drone is Romain, a young guy from Narbonne. Following a few prominent turns in his school drama club, he dreamed of becoming an actor and, straight after passing his baccalaureate, moved to Paris. But he failed to make even the smallest of splashes, not least because of his Gascon accent. Like a true young D’Artagnan, or Henri IV arriving at court, his provincial drawl – all r’s and ang’s – prompted sniggers among the drama school elite with all its urbane courtiers. It amuses us all no end, too. He had elocution lessons for it, but to no avail. He took on a series of part-time jobs, which kept a roof over his head while he attended castings for roles he never had a hope in hell of landing. One day, he understood that his fantasy would never come true. Red-carpet Romain was done. What was more, Narbonne had been the biggest city he had known. It didn’t take long for Paris to fl atten him, to crush him to dust. He grew homesick, yearning for the familiar surroundings of his childhood. Problem was that he couldn’t face going back empty-handed. Now he works hard to pay his way, and the only role he aspires to is that of the prodigal son. With this aim in mind, he does any piecemeal job he can fi nd. An ant’s vocation. He spends the rest of his time on Second Life, Twitter, Facebook and a whole load of other networks – places where no-one can hear his accent, I suppose. According to Charles, he’s a tech wizard. I work for three hours every morning, which brings in 585 euros gross (whenever you talk of a part-time salary, you have to add the word “gross”, because of the tax). I get home around 9.00 a.m. If Nicole is out the door a bit late, we might run into each other. Whenever that happens, she says “I’m late” before giving me a peck on the nose and closing the door behind her. This morning, Mehmet was seething. Like a pressure cooker. I suppose his wife had been giving him grief, or something. He was pacing angrily up and down the aisle where all the crates and cardboard boxes are stacked, clutching his clipboard so tightly his knuckles had turned white. He gives the impression of being burdened with major responsibilities, exacerbated by personal strife. I was bang on time, but the moment he set eyes on me he yelled out a stream of his gibberish. Being on time, apparently, is not sufficient to prove your motivation. He arrives an hour early at least. His tirade was fairly unintelligible, but I got the gist, namely that he thinks I’m a lazy arsehole.
Although Mehmet makes such a song and dance about it, the job itself is not very complicated. We sort packets, we put them in cardboard boxes, we lay them on a palette. Normally, the pharmacy codes are written on the packets in large type, but sometimes – don’t ask me why – the number is missing. Romain reckons the settings on one of the printers must be wrong. If this does happen, the correct code can be found among a long series of tiny characters on a printed label. The numbers you want are the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth. It’s a real hassle for me because I need my glasses for this. I have to fish them out of my pocket, put them on, lower my head, count the characters … A
loss of precious time. And if Senior Management were to catch me doing this, it would annoy them greatly. Typical, then, that the first packet I picked up this morning didn’t have a code. Mehmet started screaming. I leaned over. And at that precise moment, he kicked me right in the arse. It was just after five in the morning. My name is Alain Delambre. I am fifty-seven years old. And four years ago, I was made redundant.
About Pierre Lemaitre
Pierre Lemaitre was born in Paris in 1951. He worked for many years as a teacher of literature before becoming a novelist. He was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger, alongside Fred Vargas, for Alex. In 2013 his novel Au revoir là-haut (The Great Swindle, in English translation) won the Prix Goncourt, France’s leading literary award.
Thank you for coming by to read another excellent extract piece from a leading author in the thriller genre. I have seen a lot of love for Pierre Lemaitre in the book community. I missed out on Three Days and A Life but I am not going to miss the chance to read Inhuman Resources. I can’t wait and I hope this post entices you to read it too. If not then keep an eye out for more details on social media this week as Quercus are hosting plenty of content for us to enjoy.