He considers himself an artisan. A craftsman. His trade is murder.
Milton is the man the government sends after you when everything else has failed. Ruthless. Brilliant. Anonymous. Lethal. You wouldn't pick him out of a crowd but you wouldn't want to be on his list. But now, after ten years, he's had enough - there's blood on his hands and he wants out. Trouble is, this job is not one you can just walk away from.
He goes on the run, seeking atonement for his sins by helping the people he meets along the way. But his past cannot be easily forgotten and before long it is Milton who is hunted, and not the hunter.
A career of state-sanctioned murder has taken its toll. Milton is troubled by nightmares, a long line of ghosts who torment his dreams. He resolves to make his next job his last and, then, perhaps, he can start to make amends for everything that he has done.
Sharon Warriner is a single mother in the East End of London, suicidal with fear that she's lost her young son to a life in the gangs. After Milton saves her life, he promises to help. But the gang, and the charismatic rapper who leads it, is not about to cooperate with him.
As London burns through summer riots, Milton finds himself in unfamiliar territory, dealing with an unfamiliar foe. And when his employer sends another agent after him, the odds against him are stacked even higher.
What I liked: I really enjoyed the way Mr. Dawson caught and held my attention in The Cleaner. I kept asking myself, what am I doing reading a book so far away from any setting I've read before. I mean, it's a thriller/suspense but the whole setting had me hook also. I know absolutely nothing about London, England rapper gangs and anything to do with their underprivileged families. Yes, the setting is in "the bad" neighborhoods of London. The gangs have a hold on the majority of the area. What's our hero doing there??
John Milton is hiding out after more or less quitting his job as an assassin for the UK government. He is #1, meaning their top assassin. I can't even imagine he thought he could walk away from that type of job. He has problems. He's suddenly started questioning his previous hits and in addition, he has been keeping his own secrets from his employers in Department 15.
John's boss, Control, has been overlooking the signs of burn out or should that be that his operative has suddenly grown a conscience? Control knows Milton is the best and the department depends heavily on him so he overlooked some inconsistencies in Milton's behavior. Now, his #1 assassin has gone missing/hiding and the department needs to find him and see if he is still "useful".
The Cleaner is one of my favorite type of books, it's character driven. I have no idea if Mr. Dawson's research is on point, what I do know is that the characters, practically all of them, felt real. The situations they were in (except maybe Milton's) felt real. So, the characters and their feelings resonated with me and I have no idea why. It's just the way they were portrayed in the author's writings.
The lead character was a surprise. You think, government assassin, you think, Jason Bourne or secretive agencies, you think, Mission Impossible. I didn't get that vibe from Milton. What I did get was a man with a conscience that finally woke up and said enough. In addition, Milton has some other baggage which I can't go into without spoilers. Milton is no Ethan Hawk or Jason Bourne. He's a 40 year old man who just wants to make amends and live his own life.
Therein lies the rest of the story...Department 15's search for Milton and what exactly are they going to do with a guy that knows where all the bodies are buried, for real.
What I didn't like: There are two short before The Cleaner, I read one, 1000 Yards but didn't read the other. As far as I know, I didn't miss anything major. Essentially, The Cleaner is the first book in the John Milton series and as with any first novel, it wasn't a show stopper. Back stories had to be told, characters had to be introduced, but it wasn't spoon fed to you. I was lost a few times but that might have been my own fault. I'm not sure yet.
Over all, The Cleaner should appeal to most thriller/suspense readers. Don't let the setting and some of the characters throw you off, it's a well written, entertaining read. I'm currently half through the next in the series. The prices are reasonable and you can save by buying the bundles. I just happened to get several of the series during Kindle deals for free.