Meet Jonathan Quinn: a freelance operative with a take-no-prisoners style and the heart of a loner. His job? Professional "cleaner." Nothing too violent, just disposing of bodies, doing a little cleanup if necessary. But in Brett Battles's electrifying debut novel, Quinn's latest assignment will change everything, igniting a harrowing journey of violence, betrayal, and revenge.
The job seemed simple enough: investigating a suspicious case of arson. But when a dead body turns up where it doesn't belong-and Quinn's handlers at "the Office" turn strangely silent-he knows he's in over his head. With only a handful of clues, Quinn scrambles for cover, struggling to find out why someone wants him dead . . . and if it's linked to a larger attempt to wipe out the Office.
Quinn's only hope may be Orlando, a woman from his past who's reluctant to help but who may hold the key to solving the case. Suddenly the two are prying into old crimes, crisscrossing continents, struggling to stay alive long enough to unbury the truth. But as the hunt intensifies, Quinn is stunned by what he uncovers: a chilling secret . . . and a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy-with an almost unimaginable goal.
Furiously paced, filled with superbly drawn characters and pitch-perfect dialogue, The Cleaner puts a powerful twist on all our expectations as it confirms Brett Battles's place as one of the most exciting new talents in suspense fiction today.
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June 24, 2007
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Excerpt from The Cleaner by Brett Battles
DENVER WAS NOT HAWAII. THERE WERE NO BEACHES, NO palm trees, no bikinis, no mai tais sipped slowly on the deck of the Lava Shack on Maui. Instead there were people dressed like they were expecting the next ice age, directing planes down taxiways lined with mounds of freshly plowed snow. There wasn't anyone wearing a bikini within five hundred miles. Worse yet, while it was only 3:00 p.m. local time on Thursday afternoon when Jonathan Quinn's flight began disembarking, a layer of gunmetal-gray clouds made it seem like it was almost night.
It was definitely vacation over, back to work.
After he exited the plane, Quinn made his way toward the front of the terminal, pulling his only piece of luggage, a carry-on suitcase, behind him. Not far beyond his arrival gate was a small kiosk. He stopped and bought an overpriced cup of coffee.
As he took a sip he glanced around. There seemed to be an equal amount of people walking to and from the gates. A typical busy afternoon in a typical busy international airport.
But it wasn't typical people he was looking for. He did a lot of traveling and knew from experience that you could never be sure who you might run into. In his business, that wasn't necessarily a good thing. But his arrival appeared to have been unobserved. He took another sip of his coffee and moved on.
Instead of following the crowd and proceeding to the passenger pickup area, Quinn found a seat next to a set of arrival and departure screens near the ticketing and check-in counters. He pulled out the book he'd been reading on the plane, South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami, and started in where he'd left off. When he finished the book an hour later, two dozen additional flights had arrived. He closed the novel and returned it to his bag. Time to call in.
"I thought you said you'd arrive first thing this morning," the voice on the other end of Quinn's phone said, irritated.
"Selective memory, Peter," Quinn replied. "Those were your words. Is my ride here?"
"It's been there since eight a.m.," Peter fumed. He told Quinn where to find the car, then hung up.
The ride turned out to be a blue Ford Explorer. The vehicle came equipped with leather seats, an AM/FM radio, a CD player, and two men, neither of whom felt it necessary to give Quinn their names. He designated them the Driver and the Other One.
As Quinn climbed into the back seat, the Other One tossed him a nine-by-twelve-inch padded manila envelope. It was about an inch thick and weighed maybe a pound. Quinn started to open it.
"Don't," the Driver said. He was glancing at Quinn in the rearview mirror.
"Why not?" Quinn asked.
The Other One turned toward him. "Not until we're gone. Instructions."
Quinn rolled his eyes and set the envelope on the seat beside him. "I wouldn't want you to get in trouble."