THE CLEANER - Paul Cleave

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The Cleaner is Christchurch, New Zealand based Paul Cleave's debut novel. Set in Christchurch where at one point Joe, the central character, muses that the biggest crime in Christchurch City - apart from the fashion and the Old English Architecture, glue-sniffing, too much greenery, bad driving, bad parking, lack of parking, wandering pedestrians, expensive shops, the winter smog, the summer smog, kids riding skateboards on footpaths, kids riding bikes on footpaths, old guys yelling Bible passages at anybody passing by, stupid policemen, stupid laws, too many drunks, too few shops, barking dogs, loud music, puddles of vomit in the gutters and the grey decor, among several other things - is burglary. And, thanks mainly to Joe - serial killings.

Joe works as a cleaner for the Christchurch Police. They think he's mentally handicapped - a bit slow. Joe knows he's not and he knows fully well that he's actually a very intelligent, busy, serial killer. He also knows that of the 7 murders they currently have chalked up to the Christchurch Carver - one of them wasn't him. And he's just ever so slightly miffed by this.

Early on in this book, I'll be perfectly honest, I was thinking that the world could really do without another self-impressed, self-involved, self-narrating serial killer and about the time I was ready to throw this out the nearest window, bang, Cleave suddenly turned THE CLEANER on its head and Joe finds himself in a very very strange place. From then on the book takes you on a bit of a wild ride whilst Joe ramps up the killing spree, and tries to find the perpetrator of the one murder that he didn't do. Professional Pride? More likely a handy scapegoat.

Although set within the Police Station, this is not a police procedural, so there is little concentration on the actual investigation, with most of the Police investigators taking a very low profile. Aside from the police, there are some unusual and well fleshed supporting characters. All in all, a very promising debut book with some good twists and turns.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Meet Joe. He's a nice guy out to catch a copycat killer. The one copying himself.

Surprising and compelling, this powerfully written novel is a terrifyingly vivid insight into the mind of a serial killer. Joe is in control of everything in his simple life, including both his day job at the police department and his 'night work'. He remembers to feed his fish twice a day and visit his mother at least once a week, although he occasionally peppers her coffee with rat poison.

He is not bothered by the reports of the Christchurch Carver, who, they say, murdered seven women. Joe knows the Carver has only killed six of these women. He knows that for a fact. And Joe is going to find that copycat killer, punish him for the one and then frame him for the other six.

Blog Ned Kelly Short List for 2007
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Review THE CLEANER - Paul Cleave
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

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