The Cleaner is the first book in the John Milton series by John Dawson.
We get the backstory within the first three chapters in a conversation between Milton and his boss, codenamed Control.
Milton was an ex-special forces operator who then worked for the UK Government and tasked with removing nasty individuals from society. Codenamed Number One but also called The Cleaner, Milton had previously spent a good number of years eradicating targets by any means necessary and getting shot, knifed, and beaten up during his career.
After a hit in France, Milton hangs up his holster, and returns to civilian life. So far, this is pretty standard, formulated stuff. But wait, there’s more.
Except no one leaves the service and the powers that be, decides The Cleaner has become a liability and needs to be removed from society too. Again, this follows a well-known formula in the ex-special forces / military turned government assassin genre. Except, in The Cleaner, the reason for turning against a trusted operator comes across as half-cocked and lacking in foresight by Control.
As he waits on the train platform, Milton saves a potential suicide victim and one thing leads to another and he becomes her protector and takes on the task of turning her son’t life around and away from gang life.
I lost interest in The Cleaner when Milton switched from hunter to hunted because I knew the path would be predictable. I’m sure many countries have assassins that maraud the world, but there was something that didn’t quite click in The Cleaner and it was hard to care about Milton.
The gang story works up to a point and then falls apart and goes from strong to weak in a matter of pages.
I didn’t believe the story crux (hitman wants out and becomes the hunted) and felt the ending had an unnecessary death of a main character.
The Cleaner was a quick and predictable read and lacked oomph.
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