Magnus “Steps” Craig and his partner, Jimmy Donovan, both members of the FBI’s Elite Tracking Unit, return in Spencer Kope’s (Collecting the Dead, 2016) latest thriller, Whispers of the Dead.
When Judge Jonathan Ehrlich wakes up to find a cooler stuffed with ice and two severed feet in his El Paso home, the FBI dispatches their elite tracking unit to figure out who the feet belong to, who cut them off and packaged them in ice. . . and why the heck they were left for the judge to find.
Steps Craig and Jimmy Donovan, fresh off a successful case in Washington, head to El Paso to find the killer dubbed “The Ice Box Killer.” Steps, for those who didn’t read Kope’s first book, has a very rare condition that allows him to see colors left behind by people on surfaces and even other individuals. Essentially, each person gives off their own signature — almost like their own unique DNA — that Steps can see in colors and textures. It’s an ability he’s harbored ever since he was clinically pronounced dead as a child before being brought back to life.
Obviously, Steps’ condition lends itself nicely to his job, as he is quite literally paid to track people down. The problem is that nothing he does is technically admissible in court, which means that while he can follow a trail to the killer, an arrest can’t be made without hard evidence — which is where Donovan comes in. The two work well together, and it doesn’t take them long to start following the killer’s trail in El Paso, which leads them to another victim, indicating that a serial killer is on the loose. That changes the stakes considerably, and it’s up to Steps and Donovan to not only find the murderer. . . but to uncover enough evidence along the way to lock up whoever is behind the heinous killings.
In all likelihood, readers’ ability to enjoy this novel will ultimately come down to whether or not they can buy into Steps’ tracking abilities. In some ways, it’s not all that different from what Dominika Egorova (who can see colors coming off of people) displays in Jason Matthews’ New York Times bestselling Red Sparrow trilogy. The main difference, though, is that from a creative perspective, Kope’s job is significantly easier thanks to the abilities he’s given his lead character. When the plot hits a snag, Steps is able to figure things out just by looking around and following what he calls “shine.”
Personally, I found the story to be entertaining and think Steps is a unique character. Sure, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit, but that’s true with most thrillers, and by doing so readers will open themselves up to all kinds of fun along the way.
It might not necessarily be for everyone, but overall Spencer Kope’s Whispers of the Dead is a solid page-turner that reads lightning-fast. . . and is a perfect fit for fans of John Connolly.
Author: Spencer Kope
Series: Steps #2
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck is the editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, and one of the thriller genre’s most well-recognized critics. He currently lives in southwest Michigan with his wife and their five children. For more information, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook!