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The Cleaner: A Thriller

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Overview

Joe is in control of everything in his simple life—both his day job as a janitor for the police department and his “night work.” He isn’t bothered by the daily news reports of the Christchurch Carver, who, they say, has murdered seven women. Joe knows, though, that the Carver killed only six. He knows that for a fact, and he’s determined to find the copycat. He’ll punish him for the one, then frame him for the other six. It’s the perfect plan because he already knows he can ...

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The Cleaner: A Thriller

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Overview

Joe is in control of everything in his simple life—both his day job as a janitor for the police department and his “night work.” He isn’t bothered by the daily news reports of the Christchurch Carver, who, they say, has murdered seven women. Joe knows, though, that the Carver killed only six. He knows that for a fact, and he’s determined to find the copycat. He’ll punish him for the one, then frame him for the other six. It’s the perfect plan because he already knows he can outwit the police.

All he needs now is to take care of all the women who keep getting in his way, including his odd, overprotective mother and Sally, the maintenance worker who sees him as a replacement for her dead brother. Then there’s the mysterious Melissa, the only woman to have ever understood him, but whose fantasies of blackmail and torture don't have a place in Joe’s investigation.

Originally published in 2006 in Cleave’s native New Zealand, where it was a finalist for the prestigious Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction, The Cleaner is a chilling and darkly funny thriller that will leave you clamoring for his next.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Booklist
“A wonderful book.... The final effect is that tingling in the neck hairs that tells us an artist is at work.”
Reviewingtheevidence.com
“An innovative book, dark and quirky.”
S.J. Watson
“An intense adrenalin rush from start to finish, I read The Laughterhouse in one sitting. It’ll have you up all night. Fantastic!”
Booklist (starred review)
“A wonderful book.... The final effect is that tingling in the neck hairs that tells us an artist is at work.”
The Listener (New Zealand)
“Cleave is a master of evoking the view askew; delving into the troubled psyches of conflicted characters. Former cop and convict Theo Tate, stumbling forward in search of some sort of redemption, returns to the scene of his first crime scene, hunting a killer and kidnapper set on revenge. Ferocious storytelling that makes you think and feel. A blood-stained high point in Cleave’s already impressive oeuvre.”
Simon Kernick
“Paul Cleave writes the kind of dark, intense thrillers that I never want to end. Do yourself a favor and check him out."
Mark Billingham
“Relentlessly gripping, deliciously twisted and shot through with a vein of humor that’s as dark as hell.”
From the Publisher
“An innovative book, dark and quirky.”

“An intense adrenalin rush from start to finish, I read The Laughterhouse in one sitting. It’ll have you up all night. Fantastic!”

“An intense and bloody noir thriller, one often descending into a violent abyss reminiscent of Thomas Harris, creator of Hannibal Lecter.”

“A wonderful book.... The final effect is that tingling in the neck hairs that tells us an artist is at work.”

“Cleave is a master of evoking the view askew; delving into the troubled psyches of conflicted characters. Former cop and convict Theo Tate, stumbling forward in search of some sort of redemption, returns to the scene of his first crime scene, hunting a killer and kidnapper set on revenge. Ferocious storytelling that makes you think and feel. A blood-stained high point in Cleave’s already impressive oeuvre.”

“Paul Cleave writes the kind of dark, intense thrillers that I never want to end. Do yourself a favor and check him out."

“Relentlessly gripping, deliciously twisted and shot through with a vein of humor that’s as dark as hell.”

Library Journal
An internationally best-selling author and one of New Zealand's top sellers ever, Cleave reportedly shows us the dark underside of Christchurch the way Ian Rankin shows us gritty Edinburgh. In this latest, the city is sweating over the Christchurch Carver's seven gruesome murders. But Joe, who works for the police, knows that one is a copycat murder, and he determines to find that killer and frame him for the other six deaths. By all accounts, a riveting author who deserves to be better known here.
Kirkus Reviews
A detailed look inside the mind of a remorseless serial killer penned by a New Zealand-based writer who specializes in gore and the gruesome side of crime. Joe, whose name is repeated endlessly by the characters in this book, is a janitor at the Christchurch, New Zealand, police station, where he scrubs urinals, mops floors and vacuums while eavesdropping on the department's investigation into a serial murderer that preys on women. Joe's interest in the killings is not academic or even a matter of morbid curiosity; he is the very busy and exceedingly brutal perpetrator of these homicides. But he's not watching the police to see how close they're getting at the moment; instead his curiosity is based on the murder of a woman who is not his own victim. Incensed that a copycat is also on the loose, Joe decides that the extra murder is the perfect cover for him. His plan is simple: find out who did it and pin all of the homicides on the other killer. Since Joe has access to police records and meetings, he sets out to find out who, if anyone, the cops are looking at as a suspect, but there are complications along the way, including Sally, another janitor who likes him too much for his own good. Cleave's universe is populated with a palpable brutality. The glimpses of insight he offers into his killers' thoughts are simultaneously disturbing and fascinating in a sick sort of way. As a writer, he knows how to grab the reader's attention, but even fans of darker thrillers will find the level of violence in this book disturbing. Cleave has no boundaries he won't cross and no compunctions about writing solely sacrificial characters into his storyline. Except for the constant repetition of Joe's name, the book is well-narrated and interesting, even though it sloshes around in buckets of blood with disturbing cruelty. This story is the literary equivalent of standing on the street beneath a skyscraper watching a disturbed soul teeter on a ledge, threatening to jump.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451677799
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 12/11/2012
  • Series: Christchurch Noir Crime Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 997,358
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Cleave is the author of eight award-winning, internationally bestselling crime thrillers, including Joe Victim, finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Ngaio Marsh awards, and, most recently, Five Minutes Alone. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Visit his website at PaulCleave.com.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

I pull the car into the driveway. Sit back. Try to relax. The day, I swear to God, has to be at least ninety-five degrees. Christchurch heat. Schizophrenic weather. Sweat is dripping from my body. My fingers are wet-rubber damp. I lean forward and twist the keys in the ignition, grab my briefcase, and climb out of the car. Out here, the air-conditioning actually works. I reach the front door and fumble with the lock. I breathe a sigh of relief when I step inside.

I stroll through to the kitchen. Angela, I can hear, is in the shower upstairs. I’ll disturb her later. For now, I need a drink. I walk to the fridge. It has a stainless-steel door in which my reflection looks like a ghost. I open the door and squat down in front of it for close to a minute, making friends with the cool air. The fridge offers me both beer and Coke. I take a beer, twist off the cap, and sit down at the table. I’m no heavy drinker, but I knock this bottle back in maybe twenty seconds. The fridge offers up another bottle. Who am I to say no? I lean back in the chair. Put my feet up on the table. Consider taking off my shoes. You know that feeling? A hot day at work. Stress for eight hours. Then sitting down, feet in the air, beer in hand, and you take your shoes off.

Pure bliss.

Listening to the shower upstairs, I casually sip at my second beer of the year. Takes me five minutes to finish this one, and now I’m hungry. Back at the fridge and to the slice of cold pizza I spied on my first trip. I shrug. Why not? It isn’t as though I need to watch my weight.

I sit back at the table. Feet in the air. The same thing works for pizza as it does for beer once you get those shoes off. Right now, though, I don’t have the time. I wolf down the pizza, pick up my briefcase, and make my way upstairs. The stereo in the bedroom is pumping out a song I recognize, but can’t name. Same goes for the artist. Nevertheless, I find myself humming along as I lay my briefcase on the bed, knowing the tune will be stuck in my mind for hours. I sit down next to the briefcase. Open it. Take the newspaper out. The first page offers up the sort of news that makes newspapers sell. Often I wonder if the media makes half this stuff up, just to inflate sales. There’s definitely a market for it.

I hear the shower turn off but ignore it, preferring to read the paper. It’s an article about some guy who’s been terrorizing the city. Killing women. Torture. Rape. Homicide. The stuff movies are made of. A couple of minutes go by and I’m still sitting here reading when Angela, wiping her hair with a towel, steps out of the bathroom surrounded by white steam and the smell of skin lotion.

I lower the newspaper and smile.

She looks over at me.

“Who the fuck are you?” she asks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Loved this

    Amazing! Just amazing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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