After enjoying watching Tina Baker on TV some years ago, I was intrigued to read her first novel Call Me Mummy, which came out in 2021. It was absolutely brilliant and became the best book I read that year.
Make Me Clean is her third novel and straight away, you’re taken into the story with an exciting first chapter that leaves you wanting to know more. The lead character is Maria, who cleans for a variety of people. She lives in a tiny bedsit in London, has no family and is struggling to cope on the amount of money she earns. The story is a good example of how hard cleaners and carers work. She has no time for anything else and rarely gets enough sleep.
Maria’s favourite client is 76-year-old Elsie who has dementia and four cats. She also had an ex-husband, but not anymore. Sadly the bedside rug had to go, because Maria just couldn’t get the blood out.
Throughout the book, we learn about Maria’s past and her relationship with her husband Joby. This is important because what happened in the past still affects her now. It’s also interesting to have the story flitting between past and present, filling in the gaps in Maria’s story.
Elsie is a great character and completely believable. Her flashes of clarity amongst the memory loss are often witty and it’s easy to love her, as well as sympathise with her plight. She comes up with some hilarious comments and the relationship between Elsie and Maria is a lovely one. It’s also incredibly sad to see Elsie struggling sometimes. As Tina Baker writes – “So much of Elsie’s identity is now past tense.” My own grandmother (also Elsie) is 105 and the Elsie in the book reminded me of her in some ways.
I read 39% of the book pretty much straight off and only stopped reading because I had to go to bed. Wow, what a page turner! I completed the whole book in about a day and a half. There’s something about Tina Baker’s writing which is absolutely compelling. Her characters are quirky, flawed, yet intriguing. Although Maria couldn’t be described as a “lovely” person in some respects, we still root for her and hope she will have a good outcome in the story.
Call Me Mummy was very sweary, which I know put some people off (My mum really wasn’t keen!) but Make Me Clean is much less so. It still has incredible punch and impact though. Tina Baker has this wonderful writing style which is so real, so visual – her books would make brilliant films or TV series.
They also make you think. While reading this, I was thinking all sorts of questions – Is it ever right to kill? If you kill a bad person, does that make you a bad person too – or a good person doing a bad thing? Does anyone ever deserve to die? And if they do, does their killer deserve to be punished, or allowed to remain free?
This book is absolutely brilliant and I’d definitely recommend it. Now to bump up her second novel to the top of my To Be Read pile…
‘Insightful, moving, dramatic and darkly funny’ – DAILY MAIL
‘Funny, grim and very touching’ – HARRIET TYCE
‘Make Me Clean is Tina Baker’s best yet’ – ALICE CLARK-PLATTS
She will leave your surfaces sparkling.
But she may well leave you dead…
Maria is a good woman and a good cleaner. She cleans for Elsie, the funny old bird who’s losing her marbles, with the terrible husband. She cleans for Brian, the sweet man with the terrible boss. She cleans for the mysterious Mr Balogan, with the terrible neighbours.
If you’re thinking of hiring her, you should probably know that Maria might have killed the terrible husband, the terrible boss and the terrible neighbours. She may also have murdered the man she loved.
She didn’t set out to kill anyone, of course, but her clients have hired her to clean up their lives, and she takes her job seriously – not to mention how much happier they all are now. The trouble is, murder can’t be washed out. You can only sweep it under the carpet, and pray no one looks too closely…
Darkly funny and completely gripping from the first page to the last, Make Me Clean is one thriller you won’t be able to scrub from your mind. Perfect for fans of Harriet Tyce, Fiona Cummins and My Sister the Serial Killer.