Title: The Cleaner
Author: Mark Dawson
Publication Date: 4 January 2014
Meet John Milton
He considers himself an artisan. A craftsman. His trade is murder.
Milton is the man the government sends after you when everything else has failed. Ruthless. Brilliant. Anonymous. Lethal. You wouldn’t pick him out of a crowd but you wouldn’t want to be on his list. But now, after ten years, he’s had enough – there’s blood on his hands and he wants out. Trouble is, this job is not one you can just walk away from.
He goes on the run, seeking atonement for his sins by helping the people he meets along the way. But his past cannot be easily forgotten and before long it is Milton who is hunted, and not the hunter.
A career of state-sanctioned murder has taken its toll. Milton is troubled by nightmares, a long line of ghosts who torment his dreams. He resolves to make his next job his last and, then, perhaps, he can start to make amends for everything that he has done.
Sharon Warriner is a single mother in the East End of London, suicidal with fear that she’s lost her young son to a life in the gangs. After Milton saves her life, he promises to help. But the gang, and the charismatic rapper who leads it, is not about to cooperate with him.
As London burns through summer riots, Milton finds himself in unfamiliar territory, dealing with an unfamiliar foe. And when his employer sends another agent after him, the odds against him are stacked even higher.
This is a book that I had been meaning to read for a while but I just never got around to picking it up. Having tried a few techno-thrillers lately, I wanted to get back into my regular genre and The Cleaner seemed like the perfect fit. After tearing through the book in less than 48 hours, I feel silly for letting it sit on the shelf for so long because it is really, really good.
The Cleaner is the first book in Mark Dawson’s popular thriller series featuring John Milton, former assassin for a British intelligence group known as Group Fifteen. The book opens with Milton deciding he’s had enough of his old profession and trying to move on with his life. Milton meets Sharon Warriner, a mother whose teenage son is starting to cause trouble as part of a street gang, and decides to try and help her “save” her son as a way to possibly right the wrongs of his past life.
The Cleaner has a Jack Reacher-esque feel to it. In general terms they can be seen as pretty similar. They both contain drifters that stumble into other people’s problems and decide to get themselves involved. The Cleaner doesn’t contain the mystery element that Lee Child’s books do, the general plot feels like it could be something you would find in one of his books. That’s not to say that John Milton is a Jack Reacher rip-off, because he is not by any stretch of the imagination, but rather I feel that Dawson writes with similar style to Lee Child.
The book has everything I hoped it would when I first picked it up. It has intriguing and likable characters, which I feel is impressive as quite a few of them are members of criminal street gangs, it has action and it moves at a quick pace. I would have liked to see more about the conflict between Milton and Group Fifteen, but I have a feeling that we will learn a bit more about that in the following books in the series.
I’ve read in other reviews of Dawson’s work that every book he writes is better than the last and with that in mind, I am expecting great things from the remaining six books featuring John Milton because The Cleaner is top-notch. If Dawson can deliver on that promise then I can see him quickly joining my list of favourite authors.
Worth a read? If you are like me and are also on the lookout for books with a similar feel to them as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, then look no further because The Cleaner is definitely worth a read. While it may not have the same level of mystery as Child’s books, it certainly does have that same “unputdownable” quality.