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.
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.