The Cleaner by Mark Dawson

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The Cleaner by Mark Dawson

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: A tight, pacey thriller set in the streets of London's East End.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2020
Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1787395190

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Ruthless and coldly competent, John Milton is one of the British government's best assets – a contract killer with lethal instincts. Now, after ten years, he wants out. But his job isn't one you can just walk away from…

Let's get the obvious point out of the way. Comparisons to James Bond are inevitable when discussing a thriller featuring a reclusive government agent (so much so that the man himself is even name-dropped at one point). There's actually very little that links them – John Milton might be a government-employed contract killer, but he's not one who spends much of his time abusing a bottomless expense account or charming glamorous women into bed. I did wonder at one point or another whether this book would stray into Bond territory, but it never did.

In fact, The Cleaner spends very little time in the corridors of power or in gleaming Whitehall offices – instead, the story takes place on the streets of London's poor estates, as Milton finds himself becoming inexplicably involved in the life of a young gang member and his struggling mother. Dawson doesn't pull any punches here – the story that unfolds is a grim but well-portrayed view of gang culture, with a lot of tense moments.

Fittingly, the book is pacey and incredibly tight; barely a word is wasted. Some of the writing is a little awkward, but it's sharp and to the point – much like our protagonist, in fact. I appreciated the book's sharp pace; it could have been longer and I wouldn't have minded, but I felt it didn't need any more than it had. There's very little stringing-out; much of the action happens quickly and starkly.

It's a great story with a strong buildup – and that ending! It's got me curious about the next couple of books, and where the story will go...

If thrillers are your thing, The Dead Room by Chris Mooney is a great read with some very gruesome scenes. For something a bit darker, Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak is a thriller with a distinctly chilling tone which I absolutely loved. You might also enjoy A Clean Death by Adriaan Verheul.

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