24 July 2008


Random House, 2007, ISBN: 978-1-848-09006-4, 353 pages
Author website: http://www.brettbattles.com/

In his line of work Jonathan Quinn does a lot of travelling. He’s a cleaner, usually hired to clean up messes others have left behind, inconvenient traces that may incriminate. He thinks of himself as a "dry cleaner". He removes bodies but is rarely called upon to initiate violence himself. All that is about to change. This time he has been sent to find out first hand what caused the death of a tourist in a farmhouse fire just out of Denver, Colorado.

Quinn quickly concludes this fire was no accident, and the victim no tourist. Things just don’t jell. The farmhouse is isolated but there is no indication of how the victim got there. He realises the body in the farmhouse is meant to be seen as a warning but for whom? And why?

Just as he himself was once an apprentice in the cleaning business, so Quinn is now training a young man. Nate has a lot to learn – he is overeager, a little raw, but he is learning fast. There are times though when thinking for both himself and Nate is a real handicap.

When a fellow cleaner attempts to assassinate Quinn he realises that somehow what he has found out about the farmhouse body has put him on a hit list. Both he and Nate are in danger. Quinn’s quest to find out what is going on takes them from Los Angeles, via Vietnam, to Berlin, uncovering a threat that not only challenges the Office for whom Quinn works, but the very safety of the human race. The closer he gets to uncovering the secret, the more dangerous it becomes for himself and those he contacts.

THE CLEANER is a fast moving thriller, in a style made popular by Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Hammond Innes, and more recently Matthew Reilly. Not really my favourite genre, the story at times strained the bounds of credibility. Nevertheless the plotting is tight, the tension sustained, and the central scenario believable.

This is a strong debut novel, followed up recently by a second in the series, THE DECEIVED. An American by birth, Brett Battles lives in California.

My rating: 4.2

Earlier this week I invited people to pose me a question related to my reading.

Book Zombie asked me:
I would like to know about The Cleaner - What exactly does he clean? Does the book have anything to do with the movie called The Cleaner starring Samuel L Jackson?

You've made an interesting point here. I found a reference to the film on Wikipedia:

Cleaner is a 2007 thriller film directed by Renny Harlin and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and Eva Mendes.
Single father and former cop Tom Cutler has an unusual occupation: he cleans up crime scenes. But when he's called in to sterilize a wealthy suburban residence after a brutal shooting, Cutler is shocked to learn he may have unknowingly erased crucial evidence, entangling himself in a dirty criminal cover-up.

There are some similarities: Jonathon Quinn is a former cop, but he doesn't really clean crime scenes, so much as remove embarrassments. He works for the Office, but is himself not quite sure who the financiers of the Office are. He suspects at one stage, that they may be government related.

The film was released in December 2007, but it seems to me that the book and the film are not really related. The book was released in hardcover in June 2007.

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