The Cleaner

Paul Cleave. Atria, $15 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-4516-7779-9
A generic serial killer and an overly drawn out plot mar Cleave’s otherwise promising debut, first published outside the U.S. in 2006. Posing as mentally challenged, Joe Middleton is all but invisible to the Christchurch, New Zealand, police detectives whose offices he cleans. The police have no clue that “Slow Joe” is “the Christchurch Carver,” a serial killer whose trail of raped and murdered women they are struggling to follow. Of course, this guise ideally suits Joe, who monitors the investigation and makes his next move accordingly. One night, Joe runs afoul of a woman he picks up at a nightclub, who expertly turns the tables and inflicts an injury on Joe that will disturb male readers. Cleave (The Laughterhouse) underscores the banality of evil through his killer, but doesn’t sufficiently develop the man’s character. Fans of Cleave’s later, more polished crime thrillers should be prepared for what is in effect an apprentice work. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory and Company. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/2012
Release date: 12/11/2012
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