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The Cleaner

(John Milton #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  9,529 ratings  ·  689 reviews
Meet John Milton

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.
Kindle Edition, 313 pages
Published January 4th 2014 by Unputdownable (first published July 1st 2013)
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Asteropê I have not read this yet (but I have read the prequel), but I'm assuming you're referring to the main character? He's not a psychopath. He is/was a…moreI have not read this yet (but I have read the prequel), but I'm assuming you're referring to the main character? He's not a psychopath. He is/was a government sanctioned assassin, murder merely is part of his job description. Totally different motivations and reasoning between that and a psychopath or serial killer! Most people would not consider the Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who in his career killed 160 (confirmed by the Pentagon, no doubt the real number is higher) as a psychopath. He's NOT! But killing was part of his job description and he did it on behalf of the US government. The character in this book had a "career of state-sanctioned murder" - meaning the government sent him and told him who to kill. He's more like Jason Bourne than Hannibal Lecter. So no, it's not implausible for him to get a conscience. And the fact that he has PTSD induced by his career, that the past haunts him, also leans to him not being a psychopath. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  9,529 ratings  ·  689 reviews

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Mar 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: boring
How did Dawson regress to writing this plodding mess after giving us the scintillating and engaging Scorpion?

Not only did our hero John Milton devolve into a cliche, but his character also seemed lacklustre and surplus to requirement. Sad really, another series bites the dust.
Martyn Halm
Oct 07, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
I rarely stop reading books, especially if they have a good premise and an awesome cover. Dawson's grammar is pretty good too, and the formatting is fine.

So why did I stop reading?

Well, I ran into a wall of needless exposition 10% into the Kindle e-book.

The story was gearing up pretty good, protagonist gets second thoughts about his job, doesn't shoot a young witness, gets dressed down by his superior and quits.

All is well up to this point, but then, when the protagonist has gone, his superior
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
The start of a new series can always be difficult, both for writer and reader, but with this John Milton series I think that the author has done a decent job. Character wise John Milton follows quite a well trodden path, ex special forces turned government assassin, having nightmares and regrets about his previous accomplishments, he wants to retire and so sets out to make some form of atonement.
Then the story pitches headlong into inner city crime and gangs. It is written with an English
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
This was a disappointment.

What could have been an excellent redemption/vigilante story was marred by too many missteps. There was a big infodump about Milton's past awkwardly wedged into a chapter on his boss trying to figure out what to do with him. To make matters worse, the timeline of that "history" would put the present in about 2017-2018, clearly not the intent. There were a number of strange inconsistencies that had me shaking my head. (view spoiler)
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: thriller
I was disappointed in this book. of course that could be because it's not what I was looking for.

In my opinion the "jacket blurb" is misleading. I'd say that for a large portion of the book it's not actually about John Milton. It's about a young man who's struggling with living in a bad neighborhood, dealing with a gang, the fact his older brother is gone, his dad is gone, his mom is struggling. He's about to screw his life up...

Look, maybe I'm just not socially conscious enough for this book.
Jim A
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second book featuring John Milton as the protagonist is both a very quick and pretty good read. Mark Dawson, once again, paints an excellent picture with his prose. While there really is nothing special about the plot, Dawsons handling of the poverty in Londons East End is done very well. He handles the back stories of the secondary characters in such a way as to not bog the story down with unnecessary trivia. I really respect authors that can do that.

The character, Milton, is an assassin
Book Addict Shaun
After my most recent read being a huge disappointment I turned to a series that I shockingly only discovered recently and that is the John Milton series by Mark Dawson. I LOVED this book and I finished it with the excitement I felt when I finished Lee Childs Killing Floor, because I know that theres a whole series of books that I now have to devour. Milton is a fantastic character and I very much enjoyed the time spent with him on the streets of Londons East End around the time of the 2011 ...more
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: men-s-adventure
John Milton is a government assassin looking to come in out of the cold, and make up for some of his actions in service.

First thing he does is try to help some Jamaicans out of the gang life in some no-future neighborhood. There's drugs, crime, and gangster rap. Meanwhile, a government agent is after John.

Not a bad first book.
Cass Tyson
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not all that

Got this because it was free. Got what I paid for. Won't buy the next one.

It starts out with a bang. The cleaner of the title takes out two targets with a submachine gun, then the cop who happens upon the scene. But he lets a young witness live, so we know he has a heart. So far so good. At the end of the first chapter I thought I had a winner on my hands.

But then the book slows to a crawl. We meet his boss. We learn that leaving a witness alive is a big no-no, and killing a cop is
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This was not the thriller I expected as the further you read you realise Milton is at a crisis in his profession as a agent for dark government enforcement. Indeed after his latest mission he tells Control he is through and can't do 'this' anymore.
What marks this book thereafter is Milton's reluctance to use violence and his lack of normal interpersonal skills.
A clever book to show this struggle, that having been a loner and sworn to secrecy his conversation is lacking especially when he talks
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Book was a quick read. Wished for a better ending thou
Kevin Dowson
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent action thriller. Government agent has had his fill, wants to retire, retirement isn't an option for someone who knows as much as he does, goes off the grid, finds a good cause, fights for it while trying to stay below the surface. And so it goes.

Not necessarily innovative but overall a good escapist read with plenty of action. The character himself, John Milton, is interesting enough to hold your focus, and the London gangland backdrop is gritty and provides enough tension to keep you
C. Clark
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
John Milton is a character who you love as a cleaner/fixer/kill whoever needs killing type of guy, but when he turns into a good guy, sick of snuffing out bodies, you like him even more. Nice job with that character. The plot runs pretty well, and the pace is good. I struggled with the antagonists, though. They just didn't feel fully developed....except for Number 12. I wanted to "see" him more in the descriptions, though, and I felt he could've played a bigger role in this book since I'm sure ...more
Richard Barnes
Dec 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first few pages of THE CLEANER seem a little trite; you know, the skilled killer taking tout an evil scientist for MI-5, or some other agency. But the story began to take shape as it went along. The author's knowledge (or research) of the London slums and it's vernacular gave credibility to the tale. A good job.
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sometimes there are people that the British government wants eliminated whose continued existence poses a risk to the effective conduct of public order. The government requires particularly skilled professions who are prepared to work on a non-attributable basis to deal with this problems. They are the Cleaners and John Milton is the best of them. A decorated military man, hes been with them for ten years, is their number one, and has killed 136 people.
But the job is getting to him. Hes
Alan Taylor
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Come on, Milton said. Look at medo I look like James Bond?

I enjoyed The Cleaner, Mark Dawsons first John Milton novel, having come to it with little expectation - the author sent me the book as part of his subscribers Starter Library but it sat on my Kindle until an interview with Dawson on Steve Cavanaghs & Luca Vestes very fine Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast sparked my interest again.

John Milton, the British governments longest serving assassin, decides to quit following a
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
The book gets off to a slightly bizarre start. Milton is on assignment for MI5 or some such private governmental agency running amok, to assassinate some North Korean generals responsible for some cyber-terrorism (as if the generals knew how to program.) Fast forward to an assignment in France where is kills a couple from Iran looking for Zirconium or some such shit they need for their nuclear weapons program. One problem, he kills a cop who happens on the scene but doesnt kill a little boy in ...more
Colin Garrow
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Secret Government problem solver John Milton sorts out things that the usual agencies cant touch. When the results of his most recent assassination job begin to prick his conscience, Milton wonders if its time to get out and do something different. Trouble is, his boss doesnt agree - simply leaving the service isnt an option. However, while reflecting on his future, Milton finds himself in a situation that demands quick thinking. In saving the life of a young mother, the former killer is given a ...more
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 Stars
(In Kindle Unlimited library)

Uneven pacing, rambling sometimes, mostly almost dull. Some good potential.

The first scene with "Control" is a 007 cartoon cliché.

Hard to care about any of these characters.
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Cleaner was the first book written by Mark Dawson that I have read and it was not at all what I expected. Our hero, John Milton, kills people for a living and does so on behalf of the British government. He has, however, grown tired of exterminating the evildoers in society, not that there aren't plenty more who ought to be killed, but that's for a treatise on the US Republican party.

So, Milton "leaves" the group that no one leaves and goes walkabout in London, as good a place as any. While
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
I enjoyed this one. It is the first book in this series by Mark Dawson. I noticed all the book that follow, have much higher ratings on GR than this first one. I plan to read more in this series because I really enjoyed the MC, John Milton. He was flawed, but determined. I liked that we wasn't portrayed as the saintly do-gooder that so many MCs in this genre fall into. He does turn out to be a do-gooder, but his flawed character anchors him down. I like that.

The story seemed stretched a little
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Reminded me of William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms in parts.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aubiable version. Good narration. Plot at times a bit unbelievable but good enough story to keep you listening and will like to read / listen to another
Toni Osborne
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Book 1, in the John Milton series

Although this is numbered as the first in the series it is actually the second book, 1000 Yards, a novella is the prequel, a short story that introduces us to the protagonist. There is no need to get to it first The Cleaner stand on its own but I have been told reading the prequel does help to get an idea what John is made of before the main story kicks in. I admit not having read it but it is on my TBR list and I should get to it pronto.

At first I had mixed
Susan Haught
While I wasn't overly impressed with the writing, the pace and storyline kept me intrigued. I found myself rooting for Milton, a guy no one should root for given his past. But, that's the trademark of a good storyteller. As Stephen King says, "Even serial killers help old ladies across the street."

Sometimes it's the story itself and not the writing that sell the tale.

I grabbed the free audiobook copy, and I found the narrator quite good. However, at one point not too far into the story, I set
Rebecca Varley
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this much more than I was expecting to (I'm not sure the blurb was a particularly good reflection of the story) but I struggled to find some of the actions of the main character convincing. Given he was supposed to be a highly trained secret agent, he spectacularly failed to realise what the consequences of his actions would be. I could have forgiven this if at some point he had acknowledged how the disastrous turn of events was essentially his fault. Unfortunately not.
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the book I thought it would be based on the beginning but I stuck with it and it did pick up and pull me in. The subject matter is a little depressing but it is an interesting read.
Oct 24, 2015 added it
DNF - No rating
This started off great, but then the book moves into some really depressing territory. Based on reviews, I'm going to give #2 a try.
Lady Delacour
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
- DNF -
Started off well but from there
the story-line went down hill.
Narrator David Thorpe was ok.
Hard foul language.
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Mark Dawson was born in Lowestoft and grew up in Manchester and Chicago. He has worked as a lawyer and currently works in the London film industry. His first books, "The Art of Falling Apart" and "Subpoena Colada" have been published in multiple languages.

He is currently writing two series. Soho Noir is set in the

Other books in the series

John Milton (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Saint Death (John Milton #2)
  • The Driver (John Milton #3)
  • Ghosts (John Milton #4)
  • The Sword of God (John Milton #5)
  • Salvation Row (John Milton #6)
  • Headhunters (John Milton #7)
  • The Ninth Step (John Milton #8)
  • The Jungle (John Milton #9)
  • Blackout (John Milton #10)
  • The Alamo (John Milton #11)

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