Format read: eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley
Release Date: 4 September 2012
Series: Book #1 in the Mindspace Investigations series
Number of pages: 352 pages
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository
A RUTHLESS KILLER—OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
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.
My Thoughts: Clean is the first book in Alex Hughes new exciting gritty urban fantasy series: the first in the Mindspace Investigations novels. We are sometime in the future where things are a bit changed and unfamiliar (artificial organs, anti- graviton generators for flying cars, drug-assisted telepathy), but not too far-fetched or unrealistic to make it difficult for the reader to picture or comprehend them (like deadly toxic rainwater). However it is interesting to see that due to the horrible Tech Wards when technology turned against mankind, now computers and other IT electronics are considered evil and kept at the most basic unharmful level:
“So if it took three days to send an e-mail through all the layers of Quarantine, if the small Web was regarded with the same respect/ fear as a pit viper, if even Cherabino had to have a thorough background check and be monitored constantly in the Electronic Crimes works for fear she’d come across something truly dangerous, well, a lot of people had died in the Tech Wars.”
The world-building of the series is fascinating and I still feel that it wasn’t explored to its full potential in the first book: we got a few mentions of the different kinds of abilities special people have like telepaths (‘teeps’), teleporters (‘jumpers’), etc. and there are even different categories within these classes:
“Psych, Off, and Construct.” When her eyes narrowed, I explained. “Psych is trained in psychology and telepathy; they treat mental illness. If you want somebody to lose their mommy issues for good, you call Psych.”
“So schizophrenia and stuff?” she asked.
“No, schizophrenia is actually a brain-chemistry or mind-structure issue—Biochem or Construct. Psych treats the more normal kinds of mental illness, usually the severe ones talk therapy doesn’t touch. Off is Offensive Battle, the black ops guys. They’re trained to kill, because, well, that’s what they do for a living. They’re all at least a little crazy by definition, and mostly you hope it’s not at you. And Construct—the deconstructionists—well, we’re the structure guys. The mind, not the brain, though the two influence each other. If you want a criminal to literally not be able to think about molesting children again, or if you’ve lost your ability to see color from a brain injury and you want it back, or if you want to literally upgrade your personal memory and remember more of what you see, we’re the guys you call.”
The story is narrated by our nameless hero, who has worked for the Guild (a mysterious kind of Ministry of Magic) as an extremely high telepath but since he was fired due to his drug addiction, he now works for the local police department, helping the cops with interrogations (comes in handy being able to see/hear what the suspect is thinking about ) and especially assisting Isabella Cherabino, a tough and efficient detective.
I really enjoyed the voice of the hero in Clean, first of all I found it very unique and refreshing to have a male protagonist in an urban fantasy (besides Clean I have only read one other with a hero narrator: Master of None by Sonya Bateman), and I found the tone of his narrative honest and unreserved.
“I was not the guy I was ten years ago. I was not the golden boy, the genius professor, the idealist anymore. I was a drug addict, a cynic— a doubter.”
He was truthful with his shortcomings, his weaknesses and doubts, and getting a glimpse into the mind of an ex-addict was enlightening. It was interesting to see his constant never ending battle against his addiction, that it is an everyday nonstop thought in the back of his head. I finally understood what addicts mean when they say that they remain addicts forever for the rest of their life, they just strive to be sober for one day at a time.
On the other hand I am still ambivalent about Cherabino, our heroine. She is a strong woman lives for justice and doing her job, but she came off rather bitchy always hostile and cranky towards the hero and the world. That’s why his affection for her was like a self inflicted punishment. I hope that in the next books Cherabino will accept and make peace with their connection and let him closer to her, not just for the sake of some romance (which I would love to see of course!) but also for her to achieve some peace and contentment. She had an awfully traumatic past and I get that she is still scarred and broken, that’s why she needs to have someone care about her.
“I thought of Cherabino. Beautiful Cherabino, strong, angry, quiet, sad Cherabino. The woman who’d brought greenhouse-grown lilies to her husband’s grave. The one who’d taught me that being beaten up wasn’t the end, and how to fight back. The woman who’d dragged me kicking and screaming into a healthy life, again and again, with no regard for the consequences to herself. The woman who’d called me a failure and meant it. Cherabino in the living room with the silky robe, her hair loose and beautiful, her body . . . I moved that one aside. Cherabino.”
Despite Clean being rather a dark and gloomy urban fantasy story the hero’s honest, self-deprecating and sarcastic sense of humour made me chuckle several times:
“I have to be at the . . . You’ve already set up a meeting with Kara?” she barked. “What did you do, send a psychic message by pigeon?” “Something like that.” Most people called it the phone, but if I got social capital from the mystery, so be it.
Swartz let me sit for about thirty seconds before grilling me. “So, what are you grateful for this week?”
“Puppies. Sunshine. Rainbows.”
Regarding a cop having been kidnapped:
“Rumor had it [the captain] had told her getting herself kidnapped was against department policy. An amateur mistake.”
Verdict: Clean is a dark and gritty urban fantasy with fascinating and rich world-building, a unique and genuine hero who has weaknesses and self questioning and does not gloss over his doubts and insecurities. I am very much looking forward to the next novels not only to read about another heart-pounding mystery but also to discover more about the secondary characters and get a more complex understanding of them (and of course to see a relationship blossom between the hero and Cherabino :-D).
I give Clean 4 stars!