Clean by Alex Hughes
Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel
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(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars. My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary. Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.”
When I first picked up this novel, I thought it was going to be a case of an unlikeable narrator and that the main thing I’d need to be watching for was whether or not the author made me like him in spite of his issues. That’s not quite the case here. The main character (unnamed until the last page of the book) is no longer using drugs, and he’s more than two years clean, but he still craves a fix through most of the book. The author keeps this from being too intrusive by making it clear that the case he’s working on is stressing him to the utmost, which is the kind of situation sure to test the resolve of any addict.
I found the relationship between the main character and Detective Cherabino to be one of the more interesting and unusual ones that I’ve seen. A lot of this is because readers aren’t coming into the relationship on the ground floor; it’s stated in the story that the two have known each other for at least five years. While it’s odd to not see the development of a relationship that’s so central to the story, it’s also a refreshing change to see a pair that doesn’t fall head over heels for each other after only knowing each other for a few days. These two have a history, and even though we haven’t seen that history for ourselves, it’s easy to see that it’s the foundation for everything in the story.
The worldbuilding is an interesting mix of high-tech and low-tech. They have things like flying cars and computers, but the Tech Wars, which haven’t been gone into in much detail, have made people afraid of technology that’s too complicated. Many functions that used to be taken care of by technology are now overseen by the Guild—the gap left by the Tech Wars is a natural place for a powerful organization to move in and take over, and it doesn’t feel like the Guild is in a place where it wouldn’t naturally be. What I hope to see in future novels is more backstory on where the telepaths came from and how they came to be known to the rest of humanity.
I liked the way police procedure works in this story given the existence of telepaths. The main character is in an interesting position: there’s a lot that he can do to find evidence with his talents, but he’s not trusted due to his past drug use. He does sometimes work with Guild telepaths, and that brings up the chains of evidence and proof that are required. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about how police gather evidence of crimes, but the mix of real life and fiction in this novel seems plausible to me.
Clean is a novel that delivers a good story and promises to unveil some intriguing mysteries in the future. There’s plenty that’s unique in the intersection of technology and telepathy, and it creates a full and nuanced world. I’m looking forward to the next novel in this series.
Also by this author: Sharp
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on April 29, 2013.