Book Review: The Dead Janitor’s Club

Back when I had a MySpace account, I used to blog book reviews of the books I had read or listened to recently. I think I’ll continue this here, since I really want to talk about the book I just finished, The Dead Janitor’s Club by Jeff Klima.I was pleasantly suprised to find this book under the Christmas tree, and dove into it with eager anticipation of some gruesome war stories and possibly even a life-changing parable from the former crime scene cleaner.

This review may contain spoilers, so read on at your own risk.

I read it from cover to cover and did not find it boring in the slightest! Yes, there are gory details of crime scenes, suicides, and unattended deaths that resulted in long undiscovered bodies, ick. Yes, there are war stories of driving all over hell’s half acre from one job to another on very little sleep. It’s the story of a little company trying to establish itself in the brave new world of crime scene cleaning in Orange County, California. There were struggles, there were dry spells, there were tears, there were laughs, there was a tattoo.

But most of all, there was a complete lack of ethics.

Maybe it’s just me, but common sense tells me that cleaning up the remains of a deceased person would necessitate biohazard protections, insurance, licensing, bonding, etc. After all, these people were often left alone inside a deceased person’s home, with all their wordly posessions left available for anyones perusal. I was dismayed to find out that these so-called professionals (the business owner being an OC sherrif for heaven’s sake) took advantage of being left alone, and stole from the homes they were supposed to be cleaning. In cases of hoarder homes, they “never found” the cash relatives were certain was hidden through the home. They threw the bloody clean up materials in the dump rather than use a biohazard disposal service – to save money.

The writer of the book – Jeff Klima – was the sole employee for much of the company’s blessedly short life, and did the majority of clean up work. Supposedly this man was smart enough to go to college, but not smart enough to wear protective clothing when dealing with blood and bits of tissue or even when using dangerous chemicals. He was also not smart enough to respect that a crime scene that takes place inside a person’s home is their home first, crime scene second. He had no concern what so ever about using an expensive mink coat to try to soak up biohazardous materials at one scene. (No, it didn’t work and destroyed the thousand dollar garment) He stole an electric guitar and accessories from another home. He had no compunction charging more money based on a client’s ethnicity or appearance.

I think one aspect of the story that really bothered me was the author’s frequent digressions into his fraternity life at Cal State Fullerton – my alma mater. The events of the book took place in the 2000s, long after I left CSUF, but he had joined a fraternity that formed while I was still on campus – Sigma Nu. Oh how I pity the Sigma Nu chapter founders for having thier efforts destroyed by Klima and his associates. At the time I was in a sorority at CSUF, a fraternity famous for its hard partying and rule breaking ways had been suspended permanently, chapter closed – the infamous TKE house. It was the trigger to clean up fraternity row and sorority life at CSUF. There were non-alcohol policies installed at probably every house on campus, the Greek system embraced FIPG and tolerance, anti-hazing and ethical recruitment practices. The Sigma Nu chapter was founded by a group of gentlemen as far as I know. By the time Klima was a member of the house, they were apparently behaving on par with TKE back in its glory days. It was sad and pathetic, and had nothing to do with crime scene cleaning, so I’m not sure why it was even in the book. Maybe to illustrate how much of a degenerate pig he really was, I’m not sure.

The book finds Klima at a turning point in his life, no money, no job, no prospects, freeloading off his saint of a girlfriend, so what did he do? Did he call the head honcho over at the sherrif’s to express his concern about the conflict of interest with respect to his boss being on both sides of the crime? No, he just stopped returning his boss’s phone calls. Sure, he was young and people in their twenties do stupid things, but I guess I had hoped the big reveal at the end of the book would have been the sudden development of a conscience and some ethics. And no where in the book does he address the status of the property he stole from the many clients who trusted him to be in their homes. I hope it all burst into flames.

Ultimately, my take-away from this book is that death is a messy business that attracts the type of people willing to clean it up – at any price – and those people are sometimes not the professional, ethical, or respectable people you would hope to see on your doorstep after Uncle Fred has blown his head off in the garage. Some police agencies mandate that family or property owners call a “remediation” firm (crime scene cleaner) to handle some of the messier jobs because of the biohazard concerns. If you find yourself in this position – which I fervently pray you never will – take a minute to find out about the company you hire. It could save you thousands in expenses and tears of grief and anger if they try to rip you off.

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