Clean, the first Mindspace Investigations novel by Alex Hughes, is a science fiction mystery set in the near-ish future. It’s told from the first person perspective of a disgraced telepathic addict who works for the DeKalb County Police as a consultant and interrogator. In return, they make sure he stays clean.
1—Urban Fantasy Done Scifi
Clean has a lot of what attracts me to Urban Fantasy books—the powerful but broken hero, the central mystery with dire consequences and bodies piling up, and the exploration of a world both like and unlike our own. But whereas Urban Fantasy has vampires and werewolves and other creatures that go bump in the night, Clean has psychics. There’s teleporters, telepaths and more, and a Guild that rules over them—and that, in this case, isn’t doing enough to police their own.
2—The World After the Tech Wars
The world of Mindspace Investigations is both lower and higher tech than our own. In the aftermath of the population-devastating Tech Wars, computers are feared. So on the one hand, you’ve got flying cars and artificial organs. On the other hand, there’s barely an internet and connected devices, like smartphones, are gone. It’s an interesting dichotomy.
Telling Clean in first person perspective allows our main character to remain nameless until the end of the book. One of the other benefits of this POV choice is that we spend our time in the telepath’s head, which is appropriate for a story that half takes place in a mental world, the Mindspace of the series title. Our telepath is a broken man, broken by the death of his dearest friend, his accidental addiction (he agreed to be part of a drug study), and broken by his fall from grace when the Guild kicked him out and his fiancé abandoned him.
Our other hero of the story is Detective Isabella Cherabino who’s the only one to wants to work with our telepath and brings him into her murder investigation. She’s got her own past death of a loved one and buries herself as deep in her work as she can get to escape that pain. Our telepath is head over heels for Cherabino but it’s hard to say if she notices that. Together these two and their relationship (romantic and non) provide as much tension as the investigation does.
Clean was a tense and intriguing read. I’ll be picking up the rest of the series when I get the chance.