Atria, December 2012
Meet Joe Middleton. Some people think he’s Slow Joe or Simple Joe. He’s an average guy with an average job. He’s a janitor, a cleaner, for the Christchurch, New Zealand police department. He has two goldfish. He visits his nag of a mom on a regular basis for meatloaf dinners.
Joe is also a serial killer. He’s raped and killed several women so far and knows the police investigation is going nowhere. How? Because, as a cleaner, he has access to the rooms where all the evidence is kept. However, he’s made a discovery and he’s not happy about it. A recent murder victim has been found. Although Joe didn’t kill her, the real perpetrator is setting him up for it. This prompts Joe to start his own investigation to find the real killer. He’s intelligent and by using deductive reasoning will narrow down the suspects.
However, Joe has other worries, namely the pesky women in his life. Besides his mother, there is Sally, a co-worker who he thinks has a schoolgirl crush on him. There is also the enigmatic Melissa…who just may be his equal in viciousness.
Dark humor runs throughout this novel, first published in New Zealand and expanded for publication in America. Its graphic details left me cringing but Cleave has presented this serial killer as-almost-likeable in a strange but morbid fashion. I didn’t really become a fan of Joe in the sense of seeing him as the hero. He’s definitely not, but there was something about the book that urged me to follow behind him-although not too closely-to see what happened next.
Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, October 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.