In the unrelenting heat of the Toronto summer, a fire at a land-fill site uncovers the remains of a local prostitute. But the post-mortem reveals disturbing details –the body has been preserved and is not who or what it seems.
DI Eleanor Raven is back on duty six months after barely surviving being kidnapped and tortured by a depraved serial killer. Work is her sanctuary but she’s carrying deep scars – mental as well as physical. Where do you go when the place you feel safest is also the place where you are most at risk?
As Eleanor battles her own demons, it looks as though a killer in the city is making a gruesome human collection. And Eleanor’s fight to save the last victim of the Collector becomes a battle to save herself.
My thanks to Karen and @crimebookclub for my review copy
If you seek out crime novels which are described as ‘dark and disturbing’ then you are in for a treat with Karen Long’s The Vault. Even for a seasoned crime reader, such as myself, there are some decidedly uncomfortable elements to this story which make it stand out as a memorable read.
The Vault features a second outing for DI Eleanor Raven following her debut in Long’s previous novel The Safe Word. Raven is returning to work after a prolonged leave of absence – she had been recuperating from an horrific attack (as depicted in The Safe Word). Her return to duties are seemingly arriving earlier than she may be ready for and there are signs that Raven is not yet fit to resume her role.
Having not read The Safe Word before starting The Vault I wondered if I may have missed key plot points which may explain Raven’s ‘awkward’ return to duties, however, everything I needed to know was addressed in full so I did not feel disadvantaged by skipping book 1. Karen Long does a great job of teasing out the underlying issues surrounding Raven’s fragile state and we are left in no doubt that Eleanor Raven is a wonderfully complex character.
The Vault opens in the less than glamorous setting of a Toronto landfill site. A fire has ravaged an area of the city dump and firefighters uncover skeletal human remains, however, the remains they found are positioned in a very unnatural pose and there can be no question that this is the body of someone who dead before the fire started. Raven is called to the scene to investigate.
Soon we are crossing paths with prostitutes, undertakers, morticians and an extremely disturbed killer that Raven dubs the Collector. The driving motivation behind the Collector is….not nice (and redacted due to spoilers). However, what I very much enjoyed was that the story follows the Collector as well as the investigating team. As a reader we get to see both sides of the story and get an insight into how the criminal conducts himself when he is trying to get on with everyday life and, more alarmingly, how he may identify a potential victim.
I am sure that The Vault will be one that sticks with me for some time. The crimes are morbidly memorable, the central character is damaged and has a dangerous penchant for deviant sexual encounters and I found the book kept me hooked – which is all I want from my crime novels.
My benchmark for shocking crime has always been the works of Michael Slade. Slade has described many nasty and unpleasant deaths yet within his stories the murders are usually sudden and shocking. Karen Long may just have laid down a new standard: a whole novel that made me uncomfortable as I read. (By odd coincidence both Michael Slade and Karen long base their stories in Canada – I may revise my list of potential holiday destinations).
I found The Vault compelling reading. The central characters are well defined and (as I discovered in my Q&A with the author) they will return and be developed further. I liked that Long will take characters and concepts into unfamiliar places picking up on areas which may be considered taboo for some.
Although I missed Eleanor Raven’s debut in The Safe Word I will be rectifying this oversight in the very near future. I want to read more from this author and, specifically, I want to read another Eleanor Raven book. The Vault was sufficiently entertaining, memorable and creepy that I have to award it a review score of 5/5 – I didn’t want it to end.