Review

The Deceived

by Brett Battles

Brett Battles’s debut novel, 2007’s THE CLEANER,
introduced a unique character in Jonathan Quinn. Quinn is a
“cleaner,” who comes in to quickly, quietly and
efficiently clean up a mess --- more often than not, one involving
a body --- that someone else has made before it’s discovered.
Battles probably could have turned a number of interesting, even
intriguing, scenarios along just these lines into several novels
before appreciably varying his theme. That he has chosen to throw
an early change-up into THE DECEIVED, his sophomore work, is but
one reason that it’s such a joy to read.

THE DECEIVED begins with Quinn on the scene of a rather grisly
job. The setting is a busy Los Angeles shipping port, and the task
is disposing of a body that has been in a shipping container for
far too long. Accompanied by Nate, his apprentice, he takes the job
in stride, at least until he discovers that the body he has been
hired to get rid of is that of Steven Markoff, a man to whom he
owes his life. Quinn is well aware that he cannot get emotionally
involved in what he’s doing, yet he feels a debt of honor to
Markoff that he can never fully repay.

Compelled to balance the scales for his murdered friend, Quinn
tries to contact Jenny Fuentes, a woman with whom Markoff had a
relationship. Fuentes, who works for James Guerrero, a maverick
U.S. Congressman, has mysteriously taken a leave of absence, and
everyone seems markedly secretive about her whereabouts. When Quinn
visits her home in Houston, he finds that she is gone and narrowly
escapes losing his own life in the process. He also meets Tasha,
who identifies herself as a friend of Jenny’s and who
believes that Jenny is in mortal danger as well.

Quinn’s quest for closure on Markoff’s behalf takes
him to Washington, D.C. and then to Singapore, guided only by a
series of numbers and letters that Markoff scrawled --- in his own
blood --- on the inside of the shipping crate where he met his slow
and painful end. Quinn and Nate are shadowed by a mysterious and
deadly team who seems to have the ability to locate them at will,
while they --- with assistance from Orlando, an enigmatic beauty
from Quinn’s past --- doggedly retrace Markoff’s final
days. What they discover, however, reaches far beyond
Markoff’s murder into a plot whose goal is so far-reaching
that it has the potential to change the course of current
events.

THE DECEIVED is full of plot twists and surprises --- many more
than its predecessor --- with the result being that the promise
that Battles exhibited in THE CLEANER is met and far surpassed. His
plotting is complex yet extremely sure-footed, so that the action
never gets bogged down by the details (or vice versa). Most of what
you think you know about the book by the time you are halfway
through it is wrong, but Battles plays fairly throughout, avoiding
the type of “Scooby-Doo” ending that occasionally
plagues the denouement of novels in which the identity of the prime
mover is cloaked in mystery. He also neatly sets up a potential
conflict for Quinn that can sustain the series for several books to
come.

All of these elements --- and more --- combine to make THE
DECEIVED a certain contender for 2008’s Top Ten lists.

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Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

The Deceived
by Brett Battles

  • Publication Date: June 24, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • ISBN-10: 0385341571
  • ISBN-13: 9780385341578