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Editor reviews

The heart-pounding action-packed audiobook thriller, The Cleaner, is written by highly-acclaimed crime thriller author Mark Dawson and is Book One in the phenomenal John Milton series narrated by professional voice artist David Thorpe. John Milton – the murderer hired by the government to do their dirty work. After 10 years in the game his conscience catches up with him and he wants out. His powerful boss isn’t about to let him. So begins a thrilling three-part chase through London where he sits in the middle as both the hunter and the hunted. Available now on Audible.

Summary

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 10 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. The Cleaner. 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.

©2013 Mark Dawson (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good but oddly unsatisfying

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I purchased this book because I'd listened to a later one in the John Milton series and had enjoyed it, so it made sense to start at the beginning. However, if my first introduction to the series had been with "The Cleaner", I don't think I would have bothered reading the rest of them. Without giving away any spoilers, I thought the ending was quite unsatisfactory and it didn't feel as if it had a proper conclusion. Actually, it was all a bit of a downer.

So, on that basis, I'm not sure that I would recommend "The Cleaner", rather I would say to my friend to give it a go on the basis that they do get better and this first book does provide a reasonable introduction to the hero, but not to have any big expectations that this will blow anyone's mind.

Would you recommend The Cleaner to your friends? Why or why not?

Despite the downer ending, I will say that "The Cleaner" introduces an interesting and compelling character in the form of John Milton. He's a more damaged, less suave James Bond type, but just as lethal. Some of the things he does do defy logic and it's not entirely clear sometimes what his motivation is... but he is engaging and has a fascination. Like I said above, if it hadn't been for the ending I would be recommending this to friends.

Have you listened to any of David Thorpe’s other performances? How does this one compare?

When I first started listening to David Thorpe I almost turned off the audiobook because he reminded me so much of the narrator in TV's Big Brother. It was so irritating. However, I persevered and he began to grow on me. In "The Cleaner" he is less Big Brother-like, so less irritating, or perhaps I just got used to it. One thing I will say is that he is absolutely brilliant with his accents and voices. I actually had to check how many narrators were on this book because they all sounded so different. I was totally impressed. Also, the voice he does for John Milton is perfect - he seems to really capture the essence of the character in the way he speaks, it's quite a delight to listen to (and just a bit sexy). So, the Big Brother issue aside (for which I've deducted one star), I do think David Thorpe does a great job overall.

Was The Cleaner worth the listening time?

Yes, although had I known how it was going to end I'm not sure I would have invested the time and effort. Having said that, "The Cleaner" does set up the rest of the series and having already read one of the later books I do know they get better, so I'm glad I've got this background into the character.

Any additional comments?

It's clear a lot of work and research has gone into this book and some of the gang characters really stand out. John Milton is very believable as the assassin trying to go straight, the typical anti-hero - but sometimes I did find some of the things he did a bit hard to understand and his motivation wasn't always that convincing. But, all that aside, the book did keep me entertained and rooting for the hero - in fact, I binged listened to the last couple of hours as the book began to reach its climax, so that must say something.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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London Gangs Story

After 15 chapters and listening to Jafaican accents I could not listen to this book any longer. I did not buy this book to listen to a story about London gangs which were almost unintelligible . If I could have returned the book I would have done.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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2 in 1 First and Last

Any additional comments?

I purchased the book as an alternative to the Jack Reacher series and it does not come close the narrator with his gangsta dialogue was irritating and only when I sped it up could I continue.
As regards John Milton being a hero everything he touched fell to wreck and ruin and it was more a poor story about gang life than a thriller

I will not be looking for a second helping

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Penny
  • United Kingdom
  • 17-11-16

Wished for a better end

The first in the series, downloaded the next two, they are addictive, the ending was inconclusive and rather frustrating.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Mark Dawson cleans up with first John Milton novel

Mark Dawson's John Milton is an intriguing and captivating character, an assasin who has developed a conscience. I love tough guys and black ops units and this novel has the best. It is well-written, pacy and unexpected and also read beautifully. I thoroughly recommend it.

23 of 29 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Simon
  • Thanks to those who have followed my reviews, you were much appreciated!
  • 28-09-17

Stir The Formula To Get A Strong Character

I suspect I am going to like John Milton. Yes he looks like being another one of the super-skilled ex-military types living to his own moral compass and he isn't exactly the first of them. Any Child could tell you that. He does though have depth and inner conflict which feels as though it could carry this series forwards.

The story in this first one is a bit formulaic with well-worn themes such as the older guy trying to save kids from a violent gangland future through his boxing club. The otherwise good kid who gets drawn into the gangs and so on. Still, I enjoyed it well enough and David Thorpe did a surprisingly good job of bringing South London and its various denizens to life.

I don't think this is the greatest story but it's a long, long way from the worst and it sets up a potentially interesting lead for the rest the series.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

What just happened?

Slow build, inconsistencies in the story line. Improbable scenarios and a ridiculously fast closure. Almost as if the author was writing the story as homework, and he finished it on the bus on the way to school.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Enjoyable listen

I have listened to Mark Dawson's short introductory novels, which I really enjoyed. Loved this first full John Milton book. Took me a while to get into, but couldn't stop listening once I did!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • Dog Lane, Kelsall, United Kingdom
  • 02-10-15

Great book, can't wait for number 2

If you could sum up The Cleaner in three words, what would they be?

awesome, realistic, gripping

Who was your favorite character and why?

milton

What does David Thorpe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

just great, never listened to any book read by him before

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

gripping & compelling

16 of 21 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Very, British Equaliser.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Cleaner to be better than the print version?

I think they'd be the same. No fancy names or place names to get your tongue around.

What did you like best about this story?

Very fast moving and exciting if a little predictable. It takes elements of The Equaliser and The Wire, mixes in some contemporary social issues and (if some thing that happened 6 years ago could be described as historic) historical happenings and writes an exciting story

What does David Thorpe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

A good solid reading.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made the pulse beat a little faster but it didn't make me laugh or cry.

Any additional comments?

A good start to the series. If they were on offer again I would buy more but I probably wouldn't use a full credit as it was quite short.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Charles Atkinson
  • Charles Atkinson
  • 11-05-17

Really fast paced and good story

John Milton the assasin is retired. He has let it be known he is out. And then, on his way home he notices a crowd shouting down at the tracks where his train was seconds away from arriving. A 30 something black woman is laying across the tracks. So he saves her. As fate would have it, she and her son would save him as well.

Suddenly an ex special forces assasin finds himself living in the ghettos of London where street gangs rule. He is there to help this woman save her teenage son from a life on the streets. Now that is what makes this story so intriguing. Great characters, believable story and yet tragedy remains in the end.

Milton, in this novel anyway, is almost like a Jack Reacher or Mitch Rapp, but with more humanity than super powers. But the premise has me thinking. What if the Government dropped special forces teams to violently wipe out all the gangs in LA and Chicago. These novels with super ex seals more or less advocate that. Collateral damages aside, gangs could be obliterated in weeks and it would protect thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The answer is that we are a nation of laws.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Ted
  • Ted
  • 17-04-17

Sizzling Beginning: 15 Stars!

Okay; weed away the PC offenses of James Bond and swirl him into John LeCarre's world of ominous bureaucratic dread. Then charge the whole thing with seasoning from Tom Wood's 'Victor The Assassin' - add a big chunk of Ludlum's 'Jason Bourne' and finally swizzle-stick it into throb-mode with Mark Dawson's dystopian imagination. Finally, have David Thorpe create this ensemble at a talent level set on high-craft. And that's how much "The Cleaner" entertained me.

Warning... this is the first part of a 'John Milton' epic. I'm off to download "Saint Death" the second in this series. Usually I hate adventures that are not entirely stand-alone. But this one is so close to a single story, and it is so damned exciting... that I've transcended my normal crankiness.

Yep, I really liked "The Cleaner". 15 Stars!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Julius
  • Julius
  • 28-09-15

High hopes but... I 'm disappointed

I hoped for a British Jonathan Quinn or maybe a little Victor the assassin. What I got was a lot of London teens from "the wrong side of the tracks" getting involved in crime with a little bit of "spy" on the DL thrown in for flavor. Very disappointing.
**Note: I didn't care for the narrator. I normally just deal with what I consider "intrusive narration," but I found Mr. Thorpe's performance too distracting. This is my first book of his, but in this case I didn't care his work. I might sample another in the future**
Overall I really wanted to like this book, but there is just too much "operative with a heart of gold" sitting on the side lines and not enough suspense / substance.

22 of 27 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Sharon Goodwin
  • Sharon Goodwin
  • 29-07-15

left questions

I went back over several times to see what happened to the boy. never found an answer. That's disappointing!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Kindle Customer
  • Kindle Customer
  • 30-04-15

Meet John Milton

Meet John Milton, once a soldier, then for many years, a government assassin. But John is tired. Plagued by painful memories and fighting alcohol dependency, he wants out and a quiet, normal life. He isn't going to get it.
In Milton, Mark Dawson has created a charismatic but troubled man trying to run away from a relentless past which will not let him go. And neither will his erstwhile employers. The book is exciting, well crafted and both the characters and places are fully developed with a light touch. I have to confess, I am a fan of this author, from his betrayed heroine of the Beatrix Rose series to the escalating drug chaos of the young lawyer in Subpoena Colada but , for me, Milton is his best creation yet.

A book can be made or destroyed by it's narration and, because I had previously read the book, there was also the fear that the pictures in my head would not fit with those offered to me by the reader. But no problem here. David Thorpe narrates clearly with an even pace. But he really excels when putting voices to the characters in conversation. Excellent.

I have no hesitation in recommending this audio book and I am most grateful to the author for gifting it to me in return for an honest review.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Taniqua Carter
  • Taniqua Carter
  • 04-05-15

No Jack Reacher....

This book was touted as the next Jack Reacher in a review. While there are similarities, the story wasn't compelling. I probably won't continue this series.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for GrandPuppy
  • GrandPuppy
  • 11-06-17

Slow

The Cleaner was ok but it was unexciting and seemed rather slow. Since this is book 1 might try another in the series to see if it is an improvement.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for James R. Drebelbis
  • James R. Drebelbis
  • 31-05-17

John Milton is a walking disaster.

John Milton's involvement in the lives of the other characters failed to improve their lot in life. At the conclusion they were either burned and homeless, dead, or continuing on the road to ruin. The story left me dissatisfied with the principal character.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Craig A. Jordan
  • Craig A. Jordan
  • 06-05-17

How could this get four stars on Amazon

Would you try another book from Mark Dawson and/or David Thorpe?

Mark Dawson, No. David Thorpe, very much yes.

What was most disappointing about Mark Dawson’s story?

Starts with what I spent my money on. A killing of someone that needs to be killed. I understand the twinge of morals. However, kills a police officer but not a kid. It takes him around six hours of listening to get to the next time he kills. Very long and boring character development. Kills off some characters and that's it. No more talk about them or how the loss of those people effect the others in the story. For being the "Best" he is written to be almost clumsy and complacent. It's like Mr. Dawson has never read a book like Mitch Rapp, Jack Reacher or others like that.

His weapon details are very fundamental and weapon discipline and tactics is not, at all close, to what a person in that position would be like.

Which character – as performed by David Thorpe – was your favorite?

Ruterford. The reader, David Thorpe, is very good. Great voices and being British his voice lends authenticity to the story. This book is about a British assassin set in London and the areas around, mostly Hackney.

What character would you cut from The Cleaner?

So many, I can't count.

Any additional comments?

I almost stopped listening after the first two hours. I should have.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Meg E Dobson
  • Meg E Dobson
  • 04-01-17

didn't hold my attention

started well, but sputtered out with all the black gang action... stopped listening around chapter 10 or 11.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful