Clean – Alex Hughes

About the book


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.

352 pages (paperback)
Published on September 4, 2012
Published by Ace-Roc
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

You can purchase this book by clicking on the following link: Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel


Admittedly I struggle with many crime and mystery novels. I usually get to a point where I burn out and don’t really care who did what, when and why. However, Clean looked interesting. A telepathic detective who has to fight to stay sober is interesting. There is a lot of room there for Hughes to create a very compelling and memorable protagonist.

It’s hard to have high expectations for a character and then realize that the character falls a little short of the mark. It tends to color the whole book when it probably shouldn’t. Adam has a fascinating setup, but Hughes falls short of exploring his potential and really flexing his unique qualities in favor of some pretty predictable writing.

Part of the fault lies with the situation. This is a cop novel, and it’s written like that. There is a definite been-there-done-that feel to things. I usually complain that urban fantasy is stereotypical, but Clean has the same feel. The cops are all jaded by life. There are lots of stark interrogation rooms and there is even the surprisingly gorgeous but tough-as-nails and mysterious female cop to grace the scene. Though Adam has the potential to be unique and memorable, the tried and true writing really puts him to the test.

That being said, there are a few things about Clean that Huges does well. The world is a rather postmodern, hybrid science fiction type thing and it’s really fascinating to see how the technology has grown and evolved over time and how humanity has changed and developed to fit the times. However, despite this, there was a lack of depth in the culture, history and plot. I had a feel that Hughes never really reached an astounding level of complexity and history with Clean. An added depth would help invest the readers in the world and situations, and probably help them sympathize with situations the culture that Hughes deals with.

Secondly, though I mourned Adam’s lack of flare, he really did have his interesting moments, especially when he stepped away from the cops and drama. Hughes really made a bold move by creating a protagonist that has so many inner and outer struggles. In the quieter moments of Clean, these struggles really do add a fascinating and emotionally compelling aspect to the book.

I tend to struggle with books that center on mysteries because I always feel like I’m supposed to be surprised and on the edge of my seat but I never really am. I have a tendency to figure out what’s going to happen before I get to invested in the book. That might be a reflection of the fact that I read 100+ books a year and thus, I might be hard to surprise, but I always feel a little disappointed when I figure things out a little too fast. Clean followed suit, and I’m not sure if the problem lies with me or with the writing. The mystery is predictable, but entertaining and the fast moving plot will keep readers engaged even if they figure it out a little too soon.

Clean is a mixed bag. It’s a middle of the road novel that is fun and fast moving with a definite hardboiled cop feel to it which will please many readers. However, if you look a little deeper, things are a bit frayed and messy. This is a first novel, and the first book in a series, and I think Hughes sets a firm foundation for herself. There is plenty here for her to grow on in future books and there is real potential to turn this series into something a bit more memorable and lasting than the “fun” ground it covers now. Hughes has an interesting vision. The world is refreshing and Adam is a character that, with a little bravery, Hughes could really turn into someone special. Perhaps it sounds like I’m poo-pooing a bit here, and I am, but in truth I think Hughes should be rather proud. Clean has its pitfalls and triumphs, but I think it sets a firm foundation for some great growth, and a potentially wonderful series.


3/5 stars

3 Responses

  • I agree almost completely with your review – I made some of the same points in the one I wrote a while back, but I knocked another star of my rating because I felt the problems overpowered the positives.

    • BookwormBlues

      This one was a hard book for me to rate because the positives and negatives seemed so balanced. I felt like, for every good thing, there was a counterbalance. Books like that are kind of hard for me to pin down with ratings. They also make me seriously debate whether I should give up ratings all together. I’m not sure how worthwhile they are as books like this show how completely subjective they can be.

  • Been meaning to read Clean, maybe at some point next month. Already bought a copy for it.

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