This book was sent to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
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.
“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 is like drinking or sex — it’s a process, not an isolated phenomenon. We barely notice it settle 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 into cold fury. That’s what scares me.”
Pierre Lemaitre’s Inhuman Resources is a bold, challenging workplace thriller that encapsulates what a job can truly mean to an individual and how far they might go to protect that purpose in life. Alain Delambre’s story is a tense, violent and visceral experience that takes place over three distinctive acts. His pursuit of a job and a second chance consumes his life and all the people in it. At 57 and unemployed, Alain needs purpose and when BLC Consulting offer him an opportunity, he sets his sights on a new job. All his has to do is pass an unorthodox examination: A Hostage Situation.
Against his wife’s wishes he sets about ensuring his success, resorting to conspiracy, manipulation (both physical and emotional) and threatening/violent behaviour on his journey to employment and beyond. After the first act I wasn’t so sure I was going to stick with the story as I wasn’t entirely certain I could understand where PL was headed with his narrative. Luckily acts two and three were absolutely superb so I am relieved I stuck with the book. This whole novel hinged on Alain Delambre and PL did a fantastic job with his character. As circumstances for Alain get more severe, he becomes more desperate and therefore much more dangerous.
Lemaite’s Alain is almost as divisive as Walter White. I cheered him on, empathised with him, hated his guts and found my way to believing in him all over again. It was difficult to read at times because of the family aspect and Alain’s lack of consideration (and outright abuse) for his loved ones. It was hard to decide whether his actions were truly for his own ego or if they were actually for their benefit. I have to say that it has been a long time since I have been that on edge during a thriller. PL’s writing is calculated and analytical yet passionate and urgent; leading the reader on an emotional and shocking path. The character development in Inhuman Resources is astonishing and over the three acts it was incredibly difficult to recognise how far Alain would go to come out on top or what he would do to get revenge.
As I said before, the first act didn’t set the scene for me, it felt unclear at times and overly detailed, so I floundered a bit but I pushed through and was greatly rewarded. Going into the second act was where PL hit his stride and I was hooked. It was a smart move to detail the hostage scenario through Fontana’s eyes instead of Delambre’s because it added a whole new dimension to Alain’s character. I also liked the fact that Fontana was at first meant to be an observer in the narrative but he quickly becomes more involved as the novel concludes adding an even more sinister edge to proceedings.
The aftermath of Alain’s ‘test’ was as gripping as the main event and I couldn’t remember a time when I had been that hung up on a conclusion. I also thought Pierre Lemaitre’s handling of dialogue was quite interesting. I don’t usually like mixed tense dialogue and unsaid impressions that change the flow of the read but PL has executed it well here. The themes were potent and well explored throughout including identity, family, desperation, perspective and blackmail. Highlighting the stakes in getting a job and maintaining the dignity and rights of employees. Everyone can relate to a douchey manager they’ve had in the past. Though I thought that towards the end the overall message set out by the novel became slightly over-exaggerated and it didn’t impact me the way I felt it should’ve. That said, it is a relevant message that everyone can relate to so PL did achieve plenty with it.
Pierre Lemaitre was on my list of highly recommended authors and it was a privilege to read his work. Inhuman Resources is a tale of treachery, taking risks and not taking no for answer and is most definitely an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will shock, surprise and divide its readers. Give it a go and add Pierre Lemaitre to your ever expanding TBR piles!
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.