Book Review: Shadows of the Dead by Spencer Kope

The best tracker in the world, a man with a secret and a special set of skills, must find two nearly untraceable killers before time runs out for their victims, in Spencer Kope’s Shadows of the Dead

Readers of this engaging and unique series featuring the FBI tracker known as ‘Steps’ are in for a treat as Barry Award-nominated author Spencer Kope returns with the most intense story in the series yet.

Kope takes the serial genre to a different level with Shadows of the Dead where we get to see Magnus ‘Steps’ Craig use his special ability he refers to as ‘the shine’ to aid his team in pursuit of a killer who seems more supernatural than human. It begins when Steps’ tracking party is sent to Clallam County in Washington State to investigate a cabin in the woods that may house a serial killer. As we are about to step into this drama, Kope gives readers a glimpse into the past and the creation of the man we now know as Steps. An accident in the woods when he was eight-years-old left him apparently dead of hypothermia. His father found him and revived him—but he was brought back with a special power. This special power —what he calls his ‘shine’—allows him to see the uniquely-colored, glowing essence of a person which has made him the best tracker of people in the world.

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The person from the cabin is one Murphy Cotton, a crazed individual who may or may not have acted alone in the disappearance of several young women. Upon apprehension and throughout his questioning, Murphy speaks in insane riddles, constantly referencing a being he calls The Onion King. He tells Steps’ team that The Onion King abducts the victims, holds them for a couple of weeks, and then leaves them in the woods for Murphy to find. There is some bizarre process that is going on both in the selection and whatever physically happens to the victims. Now, they just needed to find the missing women dead or alive.

It’s clear to the FBI that The Onion King is indeed a separate person involved in the case and not the supernatural being from another dimension that Murphy makes him out to be… or is he? Murphy is sent to prison to await trial while the team sets their sights on this second party. Two huge things then take place. First, the remains of the nine dead girls are literally stumbled over in the woods. Secondly, someone hacks into the Justice Departments’ database and changes the bail amount on Murphy from one million dollars to a mere two thousand. Murphy is then released on bail before the FBI can question him further. When they go looking for him, they come across his dead carcass, just another victim in the wake of a much larger and far more evil force. Is he just the next victim of this Onion King?

Shadows of the Dead provides an unexpected dive into the over-populated serial killer drama as the story takes on a dark tone that even Steps own shine cannot illuminate. I really enjoyed this novel that is full of complex, real characters and a plot-line that kept me ever guessing and continually surprised.

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