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The Cleaner by Paul Cleave
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The Cleaner by Paul Cleave
The Christchurch Noir Mystery Series Book #1
4.5 ★'s

From The Book:
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.

My Views:
I have read The Theodore Tate series and all of the standalone novels by this author and found all of them to be exceedingly well done with interesting, true to life characters. This series will be no exception.

The book alternates between the first person narrative of Joe, with flashbacks to his past, and several third person chapters that focus on Sally, a young woman who works at the department and feels pity, and possibly affection, for Joe. It's a very graphic, physiological story about a serial killer that believes he is smarter than anyone else and will never be caught. There are some humorous twists. He and Sally constantly misunderstand one another. Then there's Joe's mother. The strange Melissa rounds out the quirky characters. It will remind you how little you know about the people that even briefly share your everyday life.

In spite of the occasional humor it's still a dark insight into the mind of a merciless killer. The physiological thriller fan will be held captive with the first chapter. ( )
  Carol420 | Apr 6, 2017 |
I’d never heard of Paul Cleave until it was a book selection for the Psychological Thrillers book group. Psychological thrillers are one of my absolute favorite types of books to read, but sometimes they’re a little challenging to find.

I loved this book and this book alone has made me a new Paul Cleave fan. He is a master of character development. I’m not even kidding. I’ve never read characters that were this vivid. The characters were so distinct and real that I felt like I knew everything about them, every thought that ran through their heads, especially in the dialog.

The narration alternates between Joe and Sally. Joe is the cleaner, who’s a highly intelligent, sociopathic, serial-killing rapist. It’s fascinating to read a novel from his point of view. He mostly didn’t have a conscience about any of the evil things he did, but at times he appeared to have a small bit of a conscience and then he’d do or say something to make you feel like it was just a false alarm. Oddly, he loved his goldfish more than any living thing. Joe was very sarcastic and funny and I felt weird laughing at the things he said knowing he was a sick bastard. His character is so well developed that at times I wasn’t sure if it was a sign of Paul Cleave’s exceptional writing talents or if Paul is in fact, very unhinged. How in the world does a writer get into the mind of a serial killer like that? It’s amazing.

Sally is Joe’s coworker and at it took quite a while to learn her significance in the novel.

Evelyn is Joe’s mom and she is so amusing. Joe’s visits with her were the funniest. Speaking of funny, this novel had several comedic moments in unexpected scenes, such as in a graveyard. I wasn’t expecting to laugh while reading a novel that featured a serial killer.

One person said in their review that they felt sorry for Joe and before I read this book, I was thinking Are you crazy? After I read the novel, I understood why the reviewer felt sympathy for him. The park scene and later at his apartment will actually make you feel sorry for him. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even Joe. If you think Joe is evil, wait until you meet Melissa.

There were times when Joe’s luck seemed unbelievable. He was able to do things undetected when he should have been caught. He was able to walk into a conference room of the police station where he worked, grab files and either make copies in the copy room or take the files home. You would think that a station full of police officers and detectives would notice missing files for an open case. Other times, he was able to sneak into people’s houses unnoticed, not to mention all of the cars he stole. He also walked everywhere with a briefcase that contained a gun and knives including into work every day.

I loved this novel so much that I immediately went to the library to pick up the next book of this series, Joe Victim . If Joe Victim is as good as The Cleaner , I’m planning to devour all of Paul Cleave’s novels.

I highly recommend this novel to fans of psychological thrillers and aspiring writers who want to learn about character development.
( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
Note: This book can be read as part of the bigger series of crime novels that all take place in Christchurch, New Zealand. Some characters from those other novels are mentioned here but you don’t have to have read them to understand the context. It works just fine as a stand alone.

As we all know from the book’s description, Joe is the Christchurch Carver, and 7 killings have been attributed to him. But he only killed 6, so he is determined to hunt down this copy cat killer and punish him for overstepping. Right away, I had a little evil chuckle over the idea that serial killers have a code of polite behavior among themselves. Later on, the reader meets Melissa, another killer, and she’s pretty miffed at Joe for breaking her ideas of polite behavior as well. Obviously, things would go much easier for Joe if he had a rolodex of the local killers in Christchurch and could coordinate such things. Alas, to be a serial killer is to be a loner.

Joe likes to play the mentally retarded janitor and that’s how he got the job at the Christchurch police headquarters. This allows Joe all sorts of access to the investigation into his killings. For much of the book, no one is aware of what Joe is. Detective Schroeder, who we’ve seen in other Christchurch crime novels by this author, is unaware of Joe’s real abilities. Even his mother, who is verbally and sometimes physically abusive, finds him subservient. It was a delicious kind of agony to know that Joe is this vicious killer!

The author did a great job of balancing the story – I wanted Joe caught, but not so soon or not so easily because I wanted an interesting tale. The violence is, for the most part, referred to instead of portrayed in grim detail. Though there is one scene where Joe suffers a significant injury that was graphic but since he’s the evil serial killer, I was fine with that.

Joe’s mom was excellently done. She’s into memorizing the grocery store ads and puzzles and she’s not a very good cook but thinks she is. In some eerie ways, she reminded me of my own mom. Not that I’m going to turn into a serial killer because of it or anything.😉

Then there’s Sally, a maintenance worker at the police precinct. She had a brother who passed away and Sally becomes a bit fixated on Joe, wanting to help him. She plays a key role later on in the book that I won’t spoil, but her character went from being pretty mellow boring to rather interesting. She’s got her own hang ups and parental issues.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that I kept questioning whether or not Joe was mildly retarded (and he just didn’t accept that) or if he was really delusional about some things. He’s obviously a planner and can blend in when he decides to do so. I liked that I kept questioning his IQ throughout the book. Over all, it was pretty thrilling to watch a serial killer go on the hunt for another killer, working outside legal limits.

Narration: Paul Ansdell was, once again, a good fit for the main character. He had a variety of British accents, making it easy to keep the characters straight. His female voices were believable and I especially liked his eerie crazy voice for Melissa. He did a great job switching between regular Joe and retarded Joe. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | Jun 28, 2016 |
compelling thriller...twisted...Christchurch, New Zealand..... serial killer.....Christchurch Noir Crime Series

Joe Middleton " is in control of everything in his simple life—both his day job as a janitor for the police department and his “night work.” " (from description) ( )
  pennsylady | Feb 11, 2016 |
Cleave has become my new favorite author. I love the rough-hewn characters and in-your-face style he presents his readers with. I have devoured all his novels featuring Detective Theodore Tate and so was a little disappointed that “The Cleaner” is a stand-alone novel not featuring Tate. The disappointment lasted all of three chapters and by page forty six, I was so overcome by the pure evil of Joe the killer, the Christchurch Carver, I was tempted to look at the last page to be sure he is finally caught. Luckily I didn’t and found myself spending the whole day entranced in this enthralling story.
Originally released in Cleave’s native New Zealand in 2006, “The Cleaner” was just released in the States. Having orchestrated himself into the police department as simple and slow Joe the janitor, he is able to watch closely over the hunt for what the media have christened The Christchurch Carver. He knows the cops are nowhere close to discovering that he is responsible for the six bodies lying on a slab in the morgue. It is when a seventh is added, a copycat killing, that Joe wanders off course, becoming determined to discover who the killer is.
Between dealing with a busybody of a mother, the infringement of the interest from Sally—a fellow employee at the department who is determined to watch out for Joe as he reminds her of the retarded brother she lost—and a mystery lady who is besotted with police officers, Joe is finally undone by one of the women in his life who accidently stumbles over a simple clue and rats him out. If only he stayed the course and not forgotten he was just simple Joe, he would have become a classic cold case file destined to never be solved, but best laid plans are often overturned by someone else’s interference.
Another gritty storyline exposing the dark city life of Christchurch ensuring all the cities inhabitants stay locked behind closed doors at night, or like me, be kept up all night reading Paul Cleave.
( )
  MarkPSadler | Jan 17, 2016 |
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To Quinn We all still miss you, buddy.
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I pull the car into the driveway. Sit back. Try to relax.
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Mein Name ist Joe. Ich bin ein netter Kerl. Aber manchmal bringe ich Frauen um.
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A police department janitor named Joe investigates what is thought to be the seventh Christchurch Carver murder, except that Joe knows for certain that the latest homicide is the work of a copycat killer.

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