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Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope (Special Tracking Unit #1)

Magnus “Steps” Craig is a human tracker working for the FBI. Using his tracking abilities he finds people (victims, dead or alive), and helps the FBI solve difficult cases.

His true talent, however, is not known to many: he can see a person’s “shine”, the aura that the person leaves on any object they touch or any place they step on.

His ability has formed an entire department around it called the Special Tracking Unit. Without Steps there is no Unit. But the only people who know about the true nature of Steps’ success are his partner Jimmy Donovan, his dad and the director of the FBI.

The latest case requires Steps to check out the remains of a murdered woman. Steps not only recognizes the shine from a previous crime scene, but the smiley face left behind is the same with the one before. He is certain that they are dealing with a not-yet-caught serial killer who is still hard at work. Of course the serial killer is promptly named “The Sad Face Killer”.

To make things more complicated, Steps has to face another vicious and elusive killer called Leonardo, whom he’s been tracking for a decade without much success.

Steps is a very special kind of person and not only because she sees the “shine”. He has great empathy towards his victims and he loses many hours of sleep over it. The nightmares over his guilt of not being able to save everyone are a regular occurrence and Steps tries to keep them at bay by keeping two separate scrapbooks. The thickest is the black one containing pictures of victims he couldn’t save. The white one has pictures of the few victims he managed to find alive.

Steps is, however, is quite the complex character. He is funny, witty and clever, often blunt, with a healthy dose of sarcasm to spend on anyone who is around. He has a healthy relationship with his family, friends and coworkers, which departs from the usual doom-and-gloom situations of most other authors’ characters.

The story is fast paced and there is quite a lot going around with Steps chasing two different killers. The paranormal element is hardly there, so don’t expect major departures from the usual FBI thriller genre. It only manifests itself in Steps’ special gift (or curse, as he likes to call it more often than not).

I was surprised to read that Collecting The Dead is the author’s debut novel. It lacks the usual clunky, choppy and badly written phrases. I found it a pure joy to read and I’m now looking forward to A Shine So Cold, the second book in the series which comes out in summer 2017.

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