A freelance operative and professional “cleaner,” Jonathan Quinn knows better than to get emotionally involved in any of his jobs. But Quinn’s latest job is different. A friend has been murdered. A woman has gone missing. And for Jonathan Quinn, this time it’s personal.
When Quinn is called to a busy L.A. port where a shipping container has just come in from the sea, he is stunned by what he finds: inside the crate is a dead man—a man who once saved Quinn’s life, a former CIA agent named Steven Markoff. Now Quinn has to do more than clean. He has to find Markoff’s girlfriend, Jenny, who’s disappeared, to tell her that Markoff is dead. And he has to find out why someone sent Markoff’s body to him. Joining forces with his colleague and closest friend, Orlando, Quinn won’t stop until he uncovers the truth behind his friend’s violent death, the astounding reason Jenny vanished—and what she knows about the most explosive deception of all.
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The stench of rotting food and diesel fuel hung over the dock like it had been there forever. Even inside the small warehouse, the foulness overpowered everything. That was until the man in the light gray coveralls opened the door of the shipping container. Suddenly death was all Jonathan Quinn could smell.
Unflinching, he scanned the interior of the container. With the exception of a bloated body crumpled against the wall to the right, it was empty.
"Shut the door," Quinn said.
"But Mr. Albina wanted you to see what was—"
"I've seen it. Shut the door."
The man—he'd said his name was Stafford—swung the door shut, locking the handle into place.
"Why is this still here?" Quinn asked.
Stafford took a few steps toward Quinn, then stopped. "Look, I got a dock to run, okay? I got a ship out there that's only half unloaded." He sucked in a tense, nervous breath. "I got customs people all over the place, you know? It's like they knew something like this was coming in today."
Quinn raised an eyebrow. "Did you know it was coming in today?"
"Hell, no," Stafford said, voice rising. "Do you think I'd be here if I did? I'd've called in sick. Mr. Albina's got people who should take care of this kind of crap."
Quinn glanced at the man, then turned his attention back to the container. He began walking around it, scanning it up and down, taking it all in. After a slight hesitation, Stafford followed a few paces behind.
Quinn had seen thousands of shipping containers over the years: on boats, on trains, being pulled behind big rigs. They were large, bulky rectangular boxes that moved goods between countries and continents. They came in black and red and green and gray.
This one, with the exception of where the paint had chipped away and rust had started to take hold, was a faded dark blue. On each of the long sides, tall white letters spelled out baron & baron ltd. Quinn didn't recognize the name, but that wasn't surprising. At times it seemed as if there were nearly as many shipping companies scattered around the globe as there were containers.
When Quinn reached the point where he had begun his inspection, he stopped, his eyes still on the box.
"You're going to get rid of this, right?" Stafford asked. "I mean . . . that's what Mr. Albina told me. He said he was sending someone to get rid of it. That's you, right?"
"Manifest?" Quinn asked.
The man took a second to react, then nodded and picked up the clipboard he'd put on the ground when he'd opened the container's doors.
"What's supposed to be inside?" Quinn asked. With the trade imbalance the way it was, nothing came into the States empty anymore. Any container that did would be suspicious.
Stafford flipped through several pages, then stopped. "Tennis shoes," he said, looking up.
Quinn glanced over at the man. "One pair?"
"That's really funny," the man said, not laughing.
"Who found it?" Quinn asked.
Stafford seemed unsure what to say. When he did speak, his words didn't match the evasiveness in his eyes. "One of the dockhands. Said he smelled something when the crane set it down on the pier."
"From that ship out there?" Quinn asked, motioning toward the door that led outside. "The Riegle 3?"
Stafford nodded his head. "Yeah. It was one of the first ones off-loaded."
"So this dockhand, he just brought the container in here and called you?"
"You didn't call the police?"
"I run everything by Mr. Albina. He said to wait for you." When Quinn didn't reply right away, Stafford added, "That's the way it happened, okay?"
Quinn continued to stare at the man for a moment, then he turned and started walking toward the exit.
"Hey! Where are you going?" Stafford asked.
"Home," Quinn said without stopping.
"Wait. What am I supposed to do?"
Quinn paused a few feet from the door and looked back. Stafford was still standing near the container.
"Where did the crate come from? Who found it? And why did they let you know?" Quinn asked.
"I already told you that." This time there was even less conviction in Stafford's words.
Quinn smiled, then shook his head. There was no reason to blame the man. It was obvious he was only saying what he'd been told to say. Still, Quinn didn't like being jerked around.
"Good luck with your problem."
He pushed open the door and left.
"That was quick," Nate said.
Quinn climbed into the passenger seat of his BMW M3. Nate, his apprentice, was sitting behind the wheel, a copy of The Basics of Instrumental Flight in his lap. Just a week earlier, Nate had begun small-aircraft flying lessons. It was just one of many outside training courses he'd be taking during his apprenticeship.
While his boss had been inside, he'd also rolled down the windows to let the cool ocean breeze pass through the interior while he waited. His iPod was plugged into the stereo playing KT Tunstall low in the background—a live cover of the old Jackson 5 hit "I Want You Back."
"Turns out they didn't need us," Quinn said.
"No body?" Nate asked, surprised.
"There was a body. I just decided it might be better if they take care of it themselves."
Nate let out a short laugh. "Right. Better for who? Them or us?"
Quinn allowed a smile to touch his lips. "Let's go."
Nate looked at Quinn for a moment longer, seeming to be expecting more. When that didn't happen, he tossed his book in the back and started the engine. "Where to?"
Quinn glanced at his watch. It was 11 a.m. The drive back from Long Beach to his house in the Hollywood Hills would take them over an hour. "Home. But I'm hungry. Let's stop someplace first."
"How about Pink's?"
Quinn smiled. "That'll work."
They drove in silence for several minutes as Nate maneuvered the car through the city and onto the freeway.
Once they were up to cruising speed, Nate said, "So what exactly happened?"
Quinn gazed out the window at nothing in particular. "They didn't tell me all I needed to know."
"So you just walked?"
"I had to," Quinn said. He turned to his apprentice. "We don't need to know everything. That's not our job. But to do it right, sometimes there are things we have to know."
He started to tell Nate about his meeting with Stafford. When he reached the point where he questioned the man about the discovery of the body, his cell phone rang. He pulled it out, looked at the display, then frowned. He knew the call would come, but it didn't make him happy.
"This is Quinn."
"I understand you're not interested in helping us out." The high pitch of his voice was unmistakable. Jorge Albina.
Based out of San Francisco, Albina was an expert at getting things in and out of the country. Money, people, guns, and apparently now bodies, too. His services didn't come cheap, but his success rate was one of the best in the business.
"We can pretend that's the reason if it helps," Quinn said.
"It doesn't help if it's not the truth."
"That's exactly where you and I agree."
There was silence.
"Stafford told me you just left. No reason," Albina said.
"He was mistaken."
"That's not an answer."
Quinn took a deep breath. "Jorge, what's the most important part of my job?"
There was a hesitation. "Whatever I say is going to be the wrong answer."
"Not if you really thought about it," Quinn said. "But I'll tell you. Trust."
"Trust," Albina said as if he was trying out the word for the first time.
"Yes. See, you're trusting me with the knowledge of what happened, aren't you? You're trusting me to get rid of a problem so that it won't surface later, right? And you're trusting me that I'll never use what I've learned against you. Seems pretty important to me."
"A little dramatic, don't you think?" Albina said, irritation creeping into his voice. "You're a cleaner. Your job is simple. Just get rid of the body."
The muscles around Quinn's mouth tensed. "You know, you're right. It's the simplest job in the world. So I'm sure you can find someone else to help you from now on."
"Wait," Albina said. "Okay. I'm sorry. I know what you do isn't easy. And I trust you, all right? I trust you."
Quinn took a deep breath. "I have to trust you, too. I don't need to know a lot. Sometimes I don't need to know more than where the problem is. But when I do ask a question, there's a reason. I have to think about who else might know about the situation, and if they need to be steered in a different direction. I have to concern myself with where potential problems might come from while
I'm working. I won't take on a job if I don't trust the information I've been given."
He could hear Albina take a long, low breath on the other end. "So where was the issue?"
"I asked your man how the container got there, who discovered the body, and why they called him. He lied."
Albina sighed. "Look, two days ago I received a phone call, okay? I was told a package was on its way to me. Something for me personally. I was given the name of the ship, the Riegle 3, and the container number. My people were already scheduled to unload it, so controlling it wasn't difficult."
"Who was the call from?" Quinn asked.
"I don't know. It was ID'd as a Hawaiian number, but that was a dead end. Who knows where it really came from?"
"Man or woman?"
"But you didn't recognize the voice," Quinn said.
"No. I didn't."
Quinn contemplated for a moment. This explanation made a hell of a lot more sense than what he'd been told at the warehouse. But Albina was a smoother operator than Stafford, better at lying, so Quinn wasn't ready to trust the information yet.
"Is your decision not to help a final one?" Albina asked.
"Who's the dead guy?" Quinn asked. "One of your people?"
He had seen the body for only a few moments, and even then it had been bloated and discolored.
"Is that really something you need to know?" Albina said.
"It is now."
Albina was silent for several seconds. "Not one of mine," he finally said. "The man on the phone told me the dead guy's name was Steven Markoff. I've never heard of him."
Quinn tensed, his eyes frozen on the road ahead, but his voice remained neutral. "Markoff?"
"Yeah. He spelled it for me. M-A-R-K-O-F-F. You know him?"
"Name's not familiar."
"Whoever the hell he is, I just need to get rid of him." Albina hesitated a moment. "It's my fault Stafford lied to you. My orders. I just didn't want to get dragged into this more than necessary." Another pause. "I need your help."
Quinn knew Albina was holding something back. Only now it didn't matter.
"Quinn?" Albina asked.
"If I do this, you need to follow my instructions exactly," Quinn said. "No questions, no deviations."
Quinn tapped Nate on the shoulder, then pointed to the next exit. Immediately Nate began moving the BMW to the right.
"First you need to get the container away from the port," Quinn said. "You can get it past the customs people, right?"
"I can do that."
"The trailer you put it on should be untraceable. You won't be getting it back. And make sure the truck you use doesn't have any tracking devices. If it does, I'll know it, and you won't hear back from me. If everything goes right, I'll leave the truck someplace where you can pick it up when I'm done."
"Okay. No problem."
"There's a truck stop along the I-15 east of L.A., toward Corona," Quinn said, then gave him the name of the exit. "Have your driver park the rig there and leave the keys under the seat. You should have someone follow him in a car so they can leave together. But that's it. No one else, understand? If I pick up even a hint that I'm being followed by anyone, the deal's off."
"Call me once they've left the port."
Quinn hung up without waiting for a response.
"So," Nate said, "does this mean we're back on?"
They made a few stops on the way out of town, picking up some items they'd need.
"Park over there," Quinn said when they reached the truck stop. He pointed toward a group of big rigs parked just behind a row of cars. Albina had called only five minutes before to tell him the container had just left the port, so he knew it hadn't arrived yet. Still, he did a quick scan of the trucks to be sure Jorge wasn't playing any games. The container wasn't there.
After they parked, Quinn got out and had Nate pop the trunk. The storage space was covered by a dark gray carpet Quinn had installed himself. On the left side, on top of the carpet, were the items they'd purchased on the way.
Quinn ignored those and lifted up a section of the carpet on the right. Underneath was what anyone would expect, the metal bottom of the trunk. The only exception was a small black square mounted at the junction where the floor met the rear of the car.
Quinn placed the pad of his left thumb on the square. A moment later, the base of the trunk hinged up an inch, exposing a custom-built compartment below. He reached into the gap and released the catch, freeing the panel to open all the way.
The space below held his standard kit, things he might need at a moment's notice. There were several cases, most made of hard plastic, and a few simple leather pouches. He ran his fingers over the cases until he found the one he wanted. After pulling it out, he grabbed one of the leather pouches, then shut the panel and put the carpet back into place.
He walked up to the open driver's window. "You watch from here," he told his apprentice.
"Got it," Nate said.
Quinn opened the leather pouch and removed one set of communication gear. He inserted the earpiece into his right ear, its small size making it all but invisible, then attached the tiny transmitter inside his collar.
"Let me know if you spot anything I should know about," he said, handing Nate the bag with a second set of radio gear still inside.
The interior of the truck stop was a familiar one—restaurant, gift shop, restrooms. Quinn wandered around looking at the postcards, the T-shirts, and the discount CDs as he checked out the other people inside. No one registered as a threat.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A very exciting, quick read. If you love The Bourne Identity series, you will love Brett Battles' books.
Really good. Nicely paced with some great plot twists. I enjoyed this book very much, and want to track down the first one so I can read more.
It¿s been a while since I read Battles¿s first novel, but I think this one is better. Quinn¿s characterization is expanding and he seems much less robotic than in the first one. He¿s still methodical and ruthless, but he¿s also got a human side and that is very much at the fore as he pursues his friend¿s killer. Battles¿s use of more descriptors add to a better sense of place than in the first novel which was very stark by comparison. Quinn still barks out monosyllabic orders, though, in keeping with his persona. The action never lets up once it starts. Just as Quinn, Nate and Orlando can¿t catch their breaths, neither can we. One thing that does bug me is that the title sort of gives away everything. I¿d have called it something else if it were me. When I met Tasha and Jenny, I was automatically suspicious of both and when their characters were established, it stuck so the ending wasn¿t a surprise; it was expected. I just didn¿t know when Quinn would figure it out. I didn¿t expect what happened to Nate, though. That sucks and I hope he¿ll be back. He was starting to be a person and not a prop in this one.The overall plot was decent and not too hackneyed. The shadowy international organization behind it was a bit though I haven¿t personally encountered it in a while. At least he didn¿t give it an acronym that spelled anything like K.A.R.L.A. or S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Once again he gives us good spy craft detail with lots of protocols and procedures Quinn follows. That kind of stuff always fascinates me.The Orlando thing is bugging me though. I KNEW he¿d go there. The cheap and easy romance angle. It¿s boring and played. So in future we¿ll be treated to the big, huge, and glaringly obvious weak spot for Nate. She¿ll be held hostage. Her kid will be held hostage. Quinn will feel conflicted about sending her into dangerous situations. She¿ll argue that it¿s her job and that he has no right to ¿let¿ her do anything. Ugh. Spare me. Please Brett, kill her off or separate them or something. For the good of your story. Romance kills.
Holey moley! I was in the mood for a page turner and with Brett Battles¿ [The Deceived], I got that in spades. This book sucked me in and swept me along in the way only a good, action-filled suspense novel really can.The book¿s central character is a mercenary with the alias Jonathan Quinn. Quinn is a `cleaner¿, hired by government and crime bosses alike to go in and eliminate evidence (and remove bodies) after the violence is over. In this, the second novel in a series, Quinn is hired to clean out a shipping container, only to find that it contains the body of a man who once saved his life. The man, a former CIA agent, was badly beaten and left to slowly die in the shipping container. He did, however, manage to scrawl a message (in blood, of course), consisting of a series of letters and numbers, on the container wall. And he died clutching a photo of his girlfriend - one that had been taken by Quinn himself when all three had been on a fishing vacation.Quinn sets out to find out what happened to his friend and soon learns that the man¿s girlfriend, Jenny, has disappeared. The reader travels with Quinn to several American cities and, eventually, to Singapore, as he begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together and very quickly puts himself in the line of fire.The book is well-written (a real necessity for me to enjoy any book. Even with a great plot, badly written prose is like nails on a chalk board), with great dialogue between likeable characters, who manage to be believable despite their existence among the world of ¿secrets.¿ And the action scenes are great fun (they certainly got my heart racing).The book did start to drag near the end (the part that takes place in Singapore), as it took a little too long to build to the climax. And there was one plot twist that I saw coming a mile away. However, there was a terrific ending and a few subsequent plot twists that did surprise, so I consider these to be minor quibbles.I don¿t know if I¿ll remember [The Deceived] in a few weeks¿ time but I certainly had fun reading it. If you are looking for some enjoyable summer reading and mysteries are your thing (and you don¿t mind a little violent action), then get yourself a copy of [The Deceived]. I have already ordered the first book in the series from the library.
Jonathan Quinn is an independant free- lance "cleaner". What that means is that Quinn disposes of bodies that people need to make disappear. So when Quinn goes to the LA shipping docks for a job, no one is more surprised than Quinn when he reconizes the body as a former CIA agent and friend Steven Markoff. Markoff's body was stuffed into a barrel but inside the barrel is some writing that looks to be some type of code. Quinn is off to figure out the mystery behind why his friend was killed. Also Markoff had a girlfriend named Jenny that Quinn is determined to save. Quinn finds himself in Singapore in the middle of an international cat and mouse game that could make matters worse for the US.Quinn is one person you don't want to mess with, when it comes to "cleaners". All the characters in this book were strong, which is why this book was so good. This is my first book by Brett Battles and I can tell you that it was an outstanding book. I enjoyed the fast pace of The Deceived and thought the storyline was believeable and filled with action. You can bet I will be checking out The Cleaner by Mr. Battles. The Deceived reminded me of The Bourne Identity. I can't believe that I have never heard of Mr. Battles till now. Watch out all you reader fans of thrillers that will keep you going till the last page with a few twists thrown in the mix as you just might find yourself like I did falling fast and hard for Brett Battles and his books. .
Jonathan Quinn is a freelance cleaner and the man you call when you¿ve got a mess than needs cleaning up. Quinn can get rid of any and all evidence and erase any trail that leads to you up to and including the disposal of a dead body.When Quinn is called on to dispose of the body of a former associate and close friend Steven Markoff, Quinn takes it on himself to contact Markoff¿s girlfriend, Jenny Fuentes. When he finds Jenny has disappeared, Quinn puts his skills and resources into finding out where Jenny is and what¿s happened to her.Battles writes a fast-paced, spy-thriller. Quinn is one part James Bond, one part Jason Bourne. The story moves along at a nice pace, giving us action pieces and suspense while keeping the clues coming at enough of a clip to keep you interested. As Quinn investigates the conspiracy and cover-ups, you¿ll find yourself more and more intrigued by what¿s happening and eager to find out the truth. And when Quinn does find out what¿s going on, it¿s brought together in a satisfying way.
The Deceived is definitely a thriller and Battles has no trouble keeping up the pace or making his book engaging. The main character, Jonathan Quinn, is a professional "cleaner". When Quinn is called about a dead body in a shipping container he is shocked to discover that the dead body is his friend Steven Markoff, a ex-CIA agent. Quinn now has to find Markoff's girlfriend Jenny in hopes of discovering why Markoff's body was sent to him and why he was killed. And what he finds along the way is quite surprising.
Quinn is a "cleaner" - someone who goes in to remove evidence of other's wrong doings. Called in to "clean up" a body, he finds that the body is one of the few friends he has. This starts him on a hunt that goes from Washington, D.C. to Singapore.Once started, this book is hard to put down. Each chapter ends with something hanging, making the reader want to continue.
I enjoyed The Deceived. Genre-wise, it reminded me in many ways of Barry Eisler's John Rain books. I found myself genuinely interested to learn more about the protagonist and his apprentice. The pacing of the novel was also, generally, on target. The writing was well-executed and the story was well told. In particular, I found it quite easy to follow the action sequences (a problem spot for many authors). If I were to level any real criticism it would be that Battles fell prey to what I like to term "A Twist too Far". The final twist in the story, which I saw coming from some distance, was just one twist too many, and I didn't find the twist or the explanation altogether satisfactory. Nevertheless, I will certainly go back and read Battles' first Jonathan Quinn novel (see below) and I look forward to the next book in the series.One further point worth making: I have a fairly firm rule against reading series books out of order. I had intended to read The Cleaner (the first book in the Jonathan Quinn series) when it came out in paperback (or less expepnsive eBook). However, when given the chance to read a free early review copy of The Deceived I jumped at the opportunity. While I'm glad that I read the story, my belief that series books should be read in order was strengthened even further. Battles does an excellent job of referring back to events from the prior book. I'm often critical of authors who forget about the events of prior stories or, even more troubling, forget about important characters. The Deceived has many references to the events of The Cleaner (at least I presume that the events are described in The Cleaner) and for that I commend Battles. However, as I have not yet read The Cleaner, I found myself repeatedly frustrated as details from that earlier book were given away (no fault of Battles; I shouldn't have read the story out of order).
The Deceived, by Brett Battles is the story of Jonathan Quinn, a professional "cleaner", who is called to a job one day to find the body of his friend, Steven Markoff is the problem that needs "cleaning". Markoff saved Quinn's life once and Quinn now takes it upon himself to find out both how Markoff was killed and why someone sent the body to Quinn. What follows is a great spy novel, filled with exotic locations, cool gadgets, clever plot twists and brave heroics, reminiscent of Robert Ludlum's best. I was interested to read this book since I'm the type of person who loves series, and yet never reads them out of order. I hadn't read this first book in the series and I was wondering how the author would bring me up to speed. Battles does a superb job. He introduces a new reader to the characters with a deft and subtle hand, giving us enough background on each character with just a few well placed sentences. It is a fine line the author of a series must tread, allowing new readers to get to know the characters, without making loyal readers feel like they're re-reading the previous book, and this author does this very well.The Deceived is a well done, engaging spy novel. I'll be going back and reading the first book in this series, The Cleaner. Brett Battles and his character Jonathan Quinn have just joined my "must read series" list.
Reading The Deceived felt a little like eating cardboard with a smooth sorbet palate-cleanser. Unless reading the first book in the series, The Cleaner, unlocks some amazing freshness in this book, be ready for some stale with your excitement. Numerous old scenes one finds in many movies, such as a chase/mysterious gun battle among large stacked shipping containers, can be found within. One of the main supporting characters is so under-developed writing-wise as to be almost comical. And to add to the pain, the book details almost every physical movement, geographical move, short car trip, and other logistical details as to be maddening. The good news is that the reader will never wonder where any character is at any hour of any day. All in all, belabored and stale on the downside.On the positive side, the author has designed a good plot with intrigue, a wonderful ending structurally, and definitely leaves himself lots of carry-forward material for the next book. The action sequences are really thorough, which is the one time when it's a pleasure to have minute detail in struggles, gun battles, logistics, thinking, etc. All in all, if you can make it through the deserts in between, the oases are tasty, however I struggled a few times wondering why I'm wasting my time with this.
It's hard to title a book The Deceived without making a clear implication about the plot. That said, buckle in for a fast paced thriller that takes you from one side of the planet to the other. And while you know that deception is involved, don't expect to see the book's climax coming. This story takes some amazing twists that are guaranteed to keep you guessing and reading long into the night. The Deceived is another wonderful Quinn book that is thrilling fun from beginning to end!
Quinn is the Best! This series will not disappoint!!
Excellent book. Not sure why Brett Battles is not a more well known.