“Clean: Mindspace Investigation Novel #1” by Alex Hughes – gripping sf-noir

Clean by Alex Hughes

“Clean” is an excellent start to what I hope will be a long-running series.

It succeeds on many levels. It is a gripping story of a police investigation of a serial killer that draws upon familiar archetypes  – a cop/consultant with a shady past and an addiction problem who has a strong, beautiful, karate black-belt partner (also with a painful past) who stands up for him because it’s the right thing to do but still doesn’t want him in her head – while breathing enough personality and context into them to make them feel fresh.

It skilfully builds a picture of a future Atlanta, coping with  doing things manually after the Tech Wars have devastated the Western World. The ideas are seeded carefully without resorting to clumsy info-dumps.

It gives an insight into a Guild of people with “abilities” in Mindspace – telepathy, teleportation, and telekinesis – amongst other things that is original, credible, intriguing and left me hungry for more.

The prose is crisp and clear. The action scenes, including the ones requiring special powers, are exciting and fully visualised. Best of all, Alex Hughes’ first-person story-telling is as compelling as any noir fiction writer I’ve ever read, including Chandler. I loved that we barely get to find out the main characters name because he already knows it and seldom has to bother introducing himself. The main character is flawed in a very unglamorous way. He is often self-absorbed. He lacks social skills. He is an addict who constantly craves his poison. He is also brave and loyal and trying hard to get CLEAN.

I listened to “Clean” as an audiobook. It’s perfectly suited for the medium and Daniel May does a great job in giving the main character a a convincing voice.

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