Monday, August 6, 2007

"The Cleaner"

Brett Battles is the author of The Cleaner, his debut novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the book and reported the following:
The Cleaner is an international thriller featuring Jonathan Quinn. Quinn’s job is to get rid of bodies and evidence when needed so no one knows anything has happened. His latest job seemed simple enough - investigating a suspicious case of arson. But when a dead body turns up where it doesn't belong — and Quinn's handlers at "the Office" turn strangely silent — he knows he's in over his head. With only a handful of clues, Quinn scrambles for cover, struggling to find out why someone wants him dead ... and if it's linked to a larger attempt to wipe out the Office. But as the hunt intensifies, Quinn is stunned by what he uncovers: a chilling secret ... and a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy — with an almost unimaginable goal.

Of course, page 69 in The Cleaner is the end of a chapter, and only six lines long. So I’ve taken the liberty of applying the Page 69 Test to page 70. Fair enough? By page 70 of The Cleaner, we find the hero Jonathan Quinn and his apprentice Nate on the run and looking for help in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Since it’s the first page of a new chapter, it’s still short:

Upon returning to the Rex Hotel, Quinn picked up a map of the city, then told Nate he was on his own for a while.

“But don’t sleep,” Quinn said.

“I won’t.”

“I mean it.”

“I said I won’t.”

The map wasn’t as detailed as Quinn would have liked, but it did show him the street he was looking for. He had initially thought about putting this trip off until the next morning. Get some sleep, be more alert. He had even contemplated putting it off altogether. His instincts told him it was a mistake, but he had come to Vietnam not only because they needed someplace to lie low, but also because they needed help. And after discovering the secret compartment in the bracelet, he knew they needed that help as soon as they could get it.

On the sidewalk outside the Rex, he started for the line of taxis at the curb, but he changed his mind at the last moment and decided to take a cyclo. Just because he had to make the trip didn’t mean he had to get there in a hurry.

The driver, a man in his late twenties, didn’t speak English, so Quinn pulled a pen out of his pocket and wrote the address of where he wanted to go on the back of the map. The driver looked at it, then smiled and nodded.

Not a lot of action on page 70, but it does capture a bit of the relationship between Quinn and Nate, and it definitely gives a sense of being someplace out of the ordinary – an important part of the story. But is it representative of the whole book? My answer is ... partially. It does show the international flavor and does give the reader a peek at one of the important relationships. Still, as I mentioned earlier, there’s not a lot of action here, whereas in the book as a whole there’s a lot. And there are several other very important characters that are not mentioned here (though one is hinted at).
Read an excerpt from The Cleaner and more about the novel at the author's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue