The Cleaner
Brett Battles
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The Cleaner
Brett Battles
496 pages
June 2008
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The Office is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It may be a secretly-funded government agency. It may be under the National Security Agency, or perhaps military intelligence.

Jonathan Quinn freelances for The Office as a Cleaner, someone who makes the aftermath of a scene as pristine as it had been before whatever incident took place. Body removal, blood cleanup and the like are all part of his repertoire.

"No one bothers with the guy who came in after the fact, nosing around a bit, making things pretty for the locals. Quinn's line of work was about as safe as it came in the world of free-lance espionage."
At least, it used to be.

After thwarting an attempt on his life, Quinn learns from his handler that there were simultaneous hits on a number of agents and more than a few were killed that night. All the others were Office employees; Quinn is freelance. Why was he targeted?

He is advised to disappear for a while, but Quinn's professional flaw is his inability to let things go. If there are loose ends, unanswered questions, or things that just don't add up, his curiosity pushes him to keep digging. Quinn and his apprentice, Nate, flee to Vietnam, ostensibly to lay low for a while. In reality, they seek out Orlando, the widow of Quinn's old mentor.

Quinn harbors love for Orlando but, respecting her husband's last wishes, he has never acted on those feelings. At Orlando's request, he vowed to stay out of her life altogether, but she is the best Researcher he knows. He needs her professional help now.

Together, Quinn, Nate and Orlando begin to connect the dots. They unearth a flawed terrorism plot and discover the mastermind who has been manipulating them all along.

This is an excellent first novel. Battles pays close attention to his writing style - very descriptive with short, staccato sentences. The "just the facts" brevity of the sentences helps maintain the suspense through the book.

The characters are well-drawn, and the dialogue is written with an ear for conversation. Battles has set the bar high for subsequent Jonathan Quinn novels. The second and third are already in the works.

Anticipation builds.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Midge Bork, 2007

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