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REVIEW: Clean by Alex Hughes

REVIEW SUMMARY: The first in a new sci-fi noir series that delivers!


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A telepath in a future Atlanta devastated by the Tech Wars helps police track down a serial killer while fighting his own addiction to a diabolical substance that might have, and might still, ruin his life.

PROS: Fast moving plot, likeable protagonist, neat worldbuilding.
CONS: Some repetitive phrases, a few pacing issues
BOTTOM LINE: Sci-fi fans will love the tech elements and superhero mind powers of those with Ability, like the hero, and urban fantasy fans will enjoy the character development and the possibility of a future romance.

Our hero used to be a Guild golden boy. Not anymore. Now he’s a recovering Satin addict working cases with Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino and doing his best to keep his cravings in check. Five years of helping the police put people behind bars have done much to bring him out of the despair he’d fallen into with his addiction, but his demons are always just below the surface, and of course, holding them at bay are much harder on some days than others. No one in the police department trusts him, and neither does Cherabino, but when people keep dying in ways that link them to the Guild, he knows he must get to the bottom of things. The case becomes even more urgent when he has a vision that involves his death, and possibly Cherabino’s.

This fast paced sci-fi yarn takes place in a future Atlanta, full of aircars and people with Abilities of varying degrees. Told in the telepaths voice, the story paints a picture of a man fighting addiction, but also of a future devastated by the Tech Wars. Every bit of data is closely monitored, and the days of unencumbered internet use and data transfer is a thing of the past. Bombs and superviruses were tools during the Tech Wars, and no one remembers better than the government, and the cops. Sentient computers and implants have been outlawed and things like instant email is unheard of. This actually served the author well in that it slowed things down a bit in order to benefit the story, while keeping things firmly in the future. Our hero is a high level telepath, and a former Guild member. They’re not too fond of him, and the feeling is mutual, but he’s enjoyed the five years he’s had working with Cherabino, and the bond that they’ve formed is something he cherishes. When the murders begin however, it threatens that bond and nearly pushes his talent to the limit.

On the surface, this is a noirish sci fi police procedural, but at its heart it’s the story of a man that cherishes what little he has left in his life in the wake of a damaging substance abuse problem. His relationship with Cherabino is complicated, to say the least, and I loved their subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) push and pull as he tries not to drift into her mind in order to read not her thoughts, but her feelings, and he’s very sensitive to her feelings. There’s a reason for this, though. In his five years with her, he’s developed feelings for Cherabino that go beyond professional, but she’s always kept him at arm’s length, and the reason for this does become evident in the 2nd half of the novel. Cherabino frustrated me a bit in that she’s one of the most angsty cops I’ve come across, but it’s also her toughness and unwillingness to let others see her hurting that also makes her quite endearing. Also, the author’s handling of the hero’s addiction is particularly sensitive and makes no bones about the difficult nature of recovery.

The overall tone of Clean reminds me very much (and very fondly) of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. The male hero’s voice is also noticeably more sensitive than the typical male protag, which makes sense considering he’s a telepath, and I think this will make him immensely appealing to female readers. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and am looking forward to more from this author! Sci fi fans will love the tech elements and superhero mind powers of those with Ability, like the hero, and urban fantasy fans will enjoy the character development and the possibility of a future romance.

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).

8 Comments on REVIEW: Clean by Alex Hughes

  1. Do you mean “noirish” sci fi procedural?

  2. I really liked this book – as you said, the hero and Cherabino’s relationship reminds me of early Dresden and Murphy. Good stuff.

  3. I loved this book. Great review, and I can’t wait to read the next one. This one set up what has the potential to be a really great series.

  4. Great review! I’m clicking through to Amazon to order a copy.

  5. Good grief…I did put nourish, didn’t I? I must have been pre-coffee 😀

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