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The Cleaner    by Brett Battles order for
by Brett Battles
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jonathan Quinn, who was a cop before he was trained to be a Cleaner, is pulled from the sidelines (and a Hawaii vacation) into the center of the action in Brett Battles' absorbing new thriller. It reminded me a little of James Grady's Three Days of the Condor (about a bookish spy tossed into a maelstrom of betrayal and violence), though Quinn has none of the latter's naiveté and is much more skilled in both spycraft and combat.

As the story opens, Quinn has embarked on one of his usual jobs for the Office (a secretly funded U.S. government agency), assisted by his untried apprentice, Nate. Viral biologist Robert Taggart has died in a fire - deemed accidental by the local cops - in his Colorado home, and Quinn was sent to investigate and tidy the site. He determines that it was murder, picks up a silver bracelet and discovers another body at the scene, that of a female associate. Then someone tries to kill him and he quickly discovers that Office ops agents are being systematically taken out, in a disruption. But why did they come after Quinn, who's only a Cleaner?

The action moves from the United States to Vietnam (where Quinn enlists old friend and fellow spook Orlando to his cause) despite the fact that she still holds him responsible for the death of his mentor Durrie (who was also the father of her small son). Quinn still carries a torch for Orlando. While they use their sources in an attempt to find out what's going on, the Office asks Quinn to take on a related job in Germany. Suspecting a trap but without other leads, Quinn, Nate and Orlando head to Berlin. There, Quinn is sucked into a whirlpool of violence and shocking betrayal, and must race against time to save hostages and prevent the unleashing of a devastating global terrorist plot.

The Cleaner has it all - unusual and intriguing leads, a touch of romance, fast-paced action traversing the globe, and surprising villains executing pernicious plots - it's a thriller that demands a movie. Not to be missed!

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