Review of Clean by Alex Hughes

13543039Clean by Alex Hughes. ★★★

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that managed to give me so many mixed feelings!

The narrator of Clean is a drug addicted telepath. After getting kicked out of the Telepath’s Guild, he makes a living by working for police, mainly by using his telepathic powers to tease information out of suspects during interviews. But his routine begins to fall to pieces when a new killer starts stalking Atlanta and he’s called upon to help investigate. All signs point to the killer having some form of psychic powers, but otherwise clues are sparse.

I first saw Clean in my college’s book shop, under the section for books by faculty and alumnae. I did a bit of investigating, and it’s written by a grad of my college and set largely in Decatur! That means I’d actually been to some of the locations in the book, which is always a ton of fun.

In general, I really liked Clean’s world building. While I’d originally pegged it as urban fantasy, it turns out to have a good dose of science fiction in it as well. The novel’s set an unspecified amount of time in the future, after the Tech Wars shattered the West’s faith in technology. Usage of computers and networking is highly regulated and practically nonexistent for the average person. I also enjoyed the idea of a Telepath’s Guild and how psychic powers were worked into the narrative. The blending of genres made Clean one of the more original urban fantasy novels I’ve encountered.

The narrator became addicted to drugs before the start of the novel and has been in recovery for several years, although he had a couple of relapses. I don’t know enough about addiction to say how accurately it was depicted, but I did find that it helped the protagonist stand out from the crowd. I started off liking the protagonist, but as the book went on I found myself getting angrier and angrier with the narrative choices the author was making.

Aside from the narrator, the most important character is his partner, Detective Isabella Cherabino. She repeatedly tells him to stay out of her mind, but he deliberately and repeatedly snoops around in her head. Oh, and she’s also his love interest, which made his lack of respect for her personal boundaries that much more disturbing. Combined with how obsessive he was about protecting her, it honestly reminded me of those lists of abusive relationship warning signs.

But what really gets me is how the narrative justifies his behavior! To explain this point I’ll have to delve into spoilers. If you want to avoid them, just quit reading this review now.








Cherabino gets kidnapped and the narrator has to snoop in her head to rescue her. He actually wonders if he should force his way into her mind when she resists him. As if that’s not bad enough, a number of related narrative choices are throwing gasoline on the fire. First of all, she was kidnapped specifically because of her close relationship to the protagonist, making her feel totally damselled. Secondly, the narrative keeps heavily implying that she would have been raped if he hadn’t saved her in time. Can these plot choices get any more disgusting?

I was enjoying Clean in the beginning, but by the end I was pissed off. I’m not recommending this one.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tammy says:

    Lol. I can see why you’re mad, I would be too. It seems the author used a new angle on rape which is bound to piss off lots of readers, including me. Thanks for the warning!

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