cover image The Cleaner

The Cleaner

Mark Dawson. Welbeck, $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-78739-512-1

Government assassin John Milton (aka Number One), the hero of this outstanding series launch from British author Dawson (the Beatrix Rose series), seeks personal atonement after his 137th assigned kill goes wrong. His handler, known as Control, blames the botched mission, which targeted a pair of married scientists who until recently worked for Iraq’s Atomic Energy Agency, on Milton, who abruptly quits his morally questionable service to queen and country. He moves to London’s low-income East End, where he becomes involved with a single mother desperately struggling to keep her 15-year-old son out of gang entanglements. Through an AA contact, Milton tries to help the boy develop his boxing talent. Meanwhile, Control orders Number Twelve to track down Milton and kill him. Powerful descriptions of London’s seamiest streets provide the backdrop for Milton’s painful attempts, punctuated by dream flashbacks into his murderous past, to restore his battered soul. Readers will look forward to the further exploits of this unusually sympathetic lead. Agent: Annabel Merullo, Peters, Fraser, & Dunlop (U.K.). (May)