STARRED REVIEW
June 28, 2016

Solving crimes with a psychic ability

By Spencer Kope
Review by

The word “shine” takes on a whole new meaning in Collecting the Dead, a debut thriller by Spencer Kope, who brings street cred as a crime analyst for a county sheriff’s office in Washington state and a former intelligence operations specialist for Naval Intelligence.

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The word “shine” takes on a whole new meaning in Collecting the Dead, a debut thriller by Spencer Kope, who brings street cred as a crime analyst for a county sheriff’s office in Washington state and a former intelligence operations specialist for Naval Intelligence.

The shine in this book manifests solely to Magnus Craig, part of a special FBI tracking team concerned with missing persons. Craig has a special ability, almost a second sight, enabling him to read traces left behind at a scene by any person, whether in footsteps or handprints. Craig doesn’t need special lighting techniques to pick up a person’s shine, it’s an invisible gift—or curse—that allows him to pick up the slightest evidence unaided, each one sticking out, he says, like a “neon billboard.”

This odd but crucial ability is known to only a few people, including Craig’s partner, Jimmy, and the two have perfected their own way of working with mainstream law enforcement, adding a layer of scientific patter to their distinctly unscientific tracking abilities that would hardly be admissible in court.

In Collecting the Dead, the first in a series, Craig and his team search for a serial killer who kidnaps and kills young women, leaving behind his own special signature—a line drawing of a frowning face, with eyes, nose and down-turned mouth, left at each crime scene, unmistakably colored (for Craig) with the killer’s individual shine. The race is on to find and save some of Sad Face’s kidnap victims before it’s too late.

Craig seems to possess a formidable skill, but he obsesses about his failure to locate many of the missing in time to save their lives, and he suffers nightmares or insomnia with each person lost. He can’t help keeping albums containing photos of those he’s found, with a grimmer version cataloguing those that were never located. The team’s unspoken motto, “We save the ones we can,” seems to be the mantra that keeps them going.

The narrative is speckled with insider info about the FBI’s forensic skills and methods of operation. The author has mastered a conversational, dryly humorous tone that works well, and it usually—though not always—compensates for his tendency for over-wordiness.

Just when you think you’re home-free, though, the author leaves a new killer lurking in the wings, ready for tracking in the next installment.

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Collecting the Dead

Collecting the Dead

By Spencer Kope
Minotaur
ISBN 9781250072870

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