Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope

First Line: Darkness-- nearly complete.

It's difficult to identify a dead body from just the feet-- at least that's what Magnus "Steps" Craig of the FBI's Special Tracking Unit learns when he walks into the house of a Federal judge in El Paso, Texas. There are no clues as to the identity of the killer, the victim, or the reason behind having the feet inside a cheap styrofoam cooler; the only thing the authorities feel safe in saying is that this isn't the killer's first victim, and probably not his last.

Part of an elite team, Steps is the best tracker in the world, but only three people know that his talent lies in a kind of synesthesia that allows him to see whatever each particular person has touched in a unique color.

With the team still trying to come to grips with the case in El Paso, they discover an earlier victim with the same feet-in-a-cooler presentation-- and somehow they know that the "Ice Box Killer" has just begun.

In 2016, Spencer Kope wowed me with his first Special Tracking Unit mystery, Collecting the Dead, and I'm thrilled to say that he hasn't taken his foot off the gas for Whispers of the Dead. There's a razor-sharp investigation here, as well as a fast pace, and a group of characters who are more like family than mere work colleagues.

The way Kope puts the clues and the investigation together is completely absorbing, partly due to Steps' special gift of synesthesia. An FBI tracker can't go to the police and say, "Here's your killer. I know he did it because he left a dark olive and lime green 'shine' on the body and the murder weapon, and his tracks led right back to his apartment." No, that would be a sure way to get a ride to the psych ward at the local hospital. Steps not only has to interpret the shine-- the unique colors individuals leave on everything they touch-- he has to find the evidence that will hold up in a court of law. It's not always easy, but he and his partner Jimmy Donovan are professionals.

Whispers of the Dead isn't just about the investigation; it's got a very human element. Kope shows the damage a life in this sort of business can cause to a marriage and a thing or two that can be done to make sure this doesn't happen. In addition, he has a way of making you think differently about some of the characters than you think you should. Steps is also coming to realize that he should've told a couple more people about his gift a long time ago. Now it's going to be awkward when he finally does.

Not all readers like continuing storylines in the books they read, and there is one here. The Ice Box Killer investigation is successfully concluded, but there's another killer-- one even more intelligent and dangerous-- who's been taunting Steps for quite some time. Steps calls this killer "Leonardo," and I'm really looking forward to the book when Steps can concentrate on bringing him to justice. I've gone from thinking Spencer Kope's first book is brilliant to knowing that he's creating a fantastic series. Hopefully, you'll join us on the journey (if you haven't already).

Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope
eISBN: 9781466884847
Minotaur Books © 2018
eBook, 320 pages

Law Enforcement, #2 Special Tracking Unit mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley



  1. This does sound very good, Cathy. And I do like it when authors make their characters feel really human and 'fleshed out.' I can't help it, though: when I saw the title, I thought of Simon Beckett's novel of the same name, part of his David Hunter series. One of the risks of books with the same title...

    1. I noticed that I always had to include Kope's name in any search because, if I didn't, Beckett's book would come up first.

  2. Perfect! I'm so glad you went ahead and read this one and vetted it for me. My husband and I both liked the first book. I think this one will be great for us this summer in traveling. We listen while we travel together in the car and sometimes it's a little challenging to find a book that both of us will enjoy. And Leonardo...yes...

    1. This does sound like a perfect travel book for the two of you!


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