The Cleaner, a Cold War thriller, by Elisabeth Herrmann was a book I had been eyeing for several months. Originally published in Germany, I was eagerly awaiting the English translation after viewing a bit of the synopsis:
Signs of an agonisingly slow death, pools of blood, hands desperately searching for a hold. Judith Kepler has seen it all.
She is a crime scene specialist. She turns crime scenes back into habitable spaces. She is a cleaner.
I am always on the hunt for a twist on the police procedural novel.
This one ended up leaving me with some mixed feelings.
I loved the characterization in this one. Judith, the protagonist, was my favourite. I am always a fan of a female lead and Judith was quick-witted and kind of quirky. She was very easily likeable and I loved how the author tied in her past into the main story line. I also loved her sidekick Kai. Early on in the novel, I found that Judith, as lead, gave a different perspective to the typical police procedural novel, which I was revealed over.
However, this novel was not one hundred percent what I thought it was going to be.
I was under the impression, based on the synopsis that it was about some sort of CSI style, crime scene specialist whose job is to clean up murder scenes. As the novel continued, it became increasingly confusing as the characters referred to Judith as “a cleaning lady”. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the translation from German to English, but I found it confusing to categorize exactly what she did.
I also did find this one very heavy politically; I had a little bit of trouble trying to navigate through all the historical politics in the plot. I wasn’t aware that this would be a historical style thriller, but it focused mainly around the Stasi and the politics in Cold War Germany. The novel sort of switched gears into being a different police procedural perspective to more of a historical lens, which I didn’t mind, just wasn’t expecting.
Overall, I feel as if fans of historical thrillers like Stasi Wolf would enjoy this novel. I rated it 3/5.