Clean by Alex Hughes (Mindspace Investigations #1)
Released: September 4, 2012
Reviewed by Mandi
This world is a dystopian world, kind of light on the sci-fi. Years ago, (in recent enough memory for people to still remember) there was a huge Tech War, where super-viruses split people’s minds from the inside, resulting in a huge death toll. Half a century later, no one trusts computer chips. So it may take days to send one email and the now small web is regarded with fear and much respect. Not to say there are no advancements in this world. They have some cars that fly and there are telepaths and telekinetics. Told in our hero’s point of view, he is a Level 8 telepath, which means he is really strong and also has precog abilities. Due to an extremely bad drug habit when he was younger, he was kicked out of the Telepaths’ Guild. He now works as a consultant for the police department in Atlanta, brought in to interview suspects in custody that won’t crack with other investigators. He can get into their mind, make suspects admit guilt and has a high close rate. Due to his drug addiction, he is a regular member of Narcotics Anonymous and meets with his sponsor often. It is a daily struggle for him to stay clean.
His ‘partner’ for lack of a better word (he is only contracted with the police department) is detective Isabella Cherabino. She goes by Cherabino for most of the book so I’ll call her that in the review. She is a die-hard detective, a workaholic and puts up with the hero’s attitude, even though she is often exasperated. Currently she has a string of six dead bodies, with no clues to go off of. Having a gut feeling that they are all related, they pull our hero onto the scene of the most recent murder to see if he can gather any clues. He can go into what’s called Mindspace, kind of blocking everything out around him, and picking up the mental residue of what was recently left behind at whatever place he is at. So as he stands in this alley where a person was murdered, he can tell if the killers had used ‘Ability’ or some sort of telepathic means. From here the investigation goes to some dark places and our hero and Cherabino fight to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.
I really enjoyed this book. Our hero and his relationship with Cherabino reminds me a lot of Harry Dresden and Murphy, as he consults with her on cases. The chemistry between is very similar. There isn’t romance in this book per se, but you know eventually these two have to explore that little flicker of interest they have. We learn a lot about Cherabino and her past too. She is a big character in this book. Our hero has such strong telepathic abilities, he is able to be in Cherabino’s head…a lot. Much to her frustration. He often answers questions before she verbally asks them, and she punches him in the face more than once for his interference. She is a tough cookie and I really enjoyed her role in this book.
Our hero struggles with drugs and I love how it is portrayed in here. He thinks about his drug of choice, Satin (a drug he experimented with the Guild, until he became too addicted and started his downhill slide into a complete drug addiction) all the time. Daily. Probably hourly. He has been clean for six years, except for one time when he fell off the wagon. Because of that one time, he no longer directly receives his paycheck, nor has any personal belonging he can barter for drugs. Not even a bed – just a worthless cot that no one would want. This is how desperate his situation is. He calls his Narcotics Anonymous mentor daily, and we see him interact with him a lot in this book. He takes it very seriously.
He made me come up with a list of three things I was grateful for every week – I had to tell him three brand-new things at our usual weekly meeting, or he’d give me this look, all disappointed. And the feeling I got from his mind was worse, like “ungrateful” was an insult of the worst order. So, I studied. I thought. And for six years running now – not counting the two weeks I’d missed the last time off the wagon – every week I had three new things. This week I was having trouble.
He really looks to his mentor for approval. Almost childlike (and there really isn’t anything else childlike about our hero. He is definitely all man).
I really think his despair at certain points of this book is done really well. It brings a certain humility to our hero. He is this all so powerful telepath, who has hit rock bottom and is learning to rebuild his life. He is learning how to apologize, and how to work through his depression and the pressure of his abilities, to lead a better life. Reading it you know he is a good guy and you root for him to overcome his addiction.
This book moves at a steady pace. I will say the beginning is a little heavy with the world building, and it took me awhile to get a grasp of what exactly our hero is capable of and what the world consisted of. But once we got going, I didn’t want to stop reading. At the end of the book, I reflect back and see our hero as someone who has much to give – both professionally to the police with his abilities, and emotionally one day to Cherabino (at least I can hope). We have started with him on a journey of self-discovery that I found really fun. Looking forward to book two next spring.