Thursday, February 12, 2009

BOOKS: Review- The Cleaner

As mentioned before, I provide my extended family with book lists for the purposes of getting me books I'm pretty sure that I will want to read and DON'T already have. Each chapter of the extended family gets a list of six preferred books. Then I give them a communal list of books if they have to go off the first page. Worked fairly well until this past Christmas.

My parents always overbuy. It's their way. So, along with the six books on their private list, they dipped into the communal list for three more books. My brother Rick had trouble with ALL the books on his private list and went to the communal list for his gifts. And my brother Wayne and sister-in-law Lucy were also short one book and decided to go to the communal list, which holds 24 books.

Each of them scanned the page. Each of them got attracted to a black-covered book with a big foil-embossed gun. Middle right, third row, first page. And EACH of them got me a copy of The Cleaner, by Brett Battles!

Now, as I demand each book given requires a signature by the giver, I was 'stuck' with three copies of the book. Stuck, of course, is a relative term. I could, and did, give away copies with the signing page torn out. Won't tell you who's copy I actually kept. Politics, you know. And stuck implies an unpleasant circumstance.

The Cleaner is far from unpleasant. It was a fast one-night read at 464 pages. I'm salivating over getting the follow volume, The Deceived. It's that good.

Jonathan Quinn is a cleaner. Not a hitman, just a guy who specializes in sterilizing scenes of murderous mayhem. He gets rid of the bodies, so to speak. He's on the downside of a long, distinguished career in the business, which has largely been government work for the last while. He's got an enthusiastic apprentice and is moving towards retirement. Life is good.

Until it goes sideways.

Quinn gets targeted for offing, but survives. He learns of a gigantic conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. The setup includes disposing, before hand, of some people who might present a problem after the fact. Quinn's included, as a special request. Who wants him dead as part of a greater scheme to throw the world into disarray? Tis a puzzlement.

The assassination attempt forces Quinn and Nate, the apprentice, on the run. The first hiding hole is in Vietnam, where former spook Orlando is holed up with her son. The father of the son is Quinn's former mentor in the cleaning business, and Orlando (and Quinn) hold Quinn responsible for the death of the man.

Circumstances force Orlando on the run too, although she thinks she's making the choice to go. Thus, the band of put-upon shadow workers, arrives in Germany, determined to find out who's behind all the shenanigans and who wants them dead. There's also the matter of stopping the massacre intended to be launched at a meeting of political big wigs. It's a fairly ingenious murder plot that Quinn and company find a way to stop.

This isn't James Bond and his love conquest of the moment. Nate ends up close to dead and Quinn survives more by luck than design. Orlando's help proves vital, even as she tries to save the life of her son, kidnapped moments after she left Vietnam.

In the end, the good guys win and a sort of status quo is restored. The identity of the bad guy is a bit of a 'hunh' surprise. His dispatching is properly gratifying because you realize just how off-base the guy is.

Quinn and Nate head off for some R and R. They'll need it if The Deceived is as action-packed as this book was.

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