Griffin's Untraceable introduces Alex Lovell, who helps people disappear, and the “Tracers” at the Delphi Center, who track them down.
What exactly is a Tracer?
The Tracers are an elite group of forensic scientists who use biological evidence to solve unsolvable crimes. Homicide cops and cold case detectives turn to the Tracers for help with their toughest cases.
Is the center named after the oracle at Delphi?
Yes. The Delphi Center is based on the idea of predicting the future and that the best predictor of future violent behavior is past violent behavior. Evidence rooms around the country are packed with unanalyzed DNA samples (in the form of untested rape kits, victim clothing, murder weapons, etc.), and if we could just gather these genetic fingerprints together, we'd have an amazingly useful resource for solving future crimes. Anyone in law enforcement will tell you there's a huge gap between what is possible scientifically and what is happening on a day-to-day basis in police labs around the country. Cops I talk to like to joke about CSI and how their jobs are so different from what you see on television because of caseloads and limited budgets.
Alex Lovell can make people just “fall off the radar.” Aside from government programs, is it really possible to “disappear” these days?
You'd have to be very clever and very good with computers (which, of course, Alex is). We leave digital tracks all over the place, and they're very hard to erase. Everyone from your frequent flyer club to the pizza shop down the street collects information about you, so “falling off the radar” involves not just disappearing physically but dramatically changing your lifestyle.
What kind of research did you do to prepare for this series?
I love to interview people, and I've had a chance to talk to an array of experts, including FBI agents, PIs, crime scene investigators, forensic artists—the list goes on. It probably goes back to my days as a newspaper reporter, but I really believe the best way to get information is to track down the experts and ask them to share what they know. Everyone has stories to tell.
Was it difficult to transition from journalism to writing fiction?
Fiction has to have a ring of truth to it so that people can relate. I love it when I'm reading a book and the author takes me on an adventure, but keeps it grounded in just enough reality that I feel like I'm actually there. That's the joy of a good book.