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German espionage thriller has international appeal

The Cleaner by Elisabeth Herrmann Bonnier Zaffre Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult) Pub Date 24 Mar 2017


The Cleaner is a one of a kind blend of mystery and espionage. It is all the more enticing because the lead is an individual without special skills, technology or backup. Judith is a cleaner, but she is smart, persistent and determined.

A series of coincidences lead Judith Kepler, a crime scene cleaner, to discover that what she has been told about her origins was completely false. Before the wall fell, she was brought to the Yuri Gargarin Children's Home, assigned a new identity and left to suffer the abuse the home was known for. Angry and confused why a murdered woman would have her file, Judith begins digging for answers. Her search angers powerful people, because if the truth comes out it will not only embarrass current German intelligence, it will also bring attention to those who worked for East German intelligence before the wall fell and their crimes.

The story is enthralling, and the translation to English is well done. I was surprised by the occasional “Americanism” that didn't quite fit, but it never got in the way of my enjoyment of the story. The Cleaner reminded me a lot of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, not in content but in flavor.


I received a copy of The Cleaner from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



Judith Kepler has seen it all. She is a crime scene specialist. She turns crime scenes back into habitable spaces. She is a cleaner. It is at the home of a woman who has been brutally murdered that she is suddenly confronted with her own past. The murder victim knew Judith's secret: as a child Judith was sent to an orphanage under mysterious circumstances—parentage unknown. And the East German secret police were always there, in the background. When Judith begins to ask questions, she becomes the target of some powerful enemies. And nothing will ever be the same again.

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