Review | The Safe Word by Karen Long

A gripping series opener. 4/5 stars.

The Safe Word by Karen Long book cover

Thank you to Karen Long for sending me a copy of The Safe Word in return for an honest review.


The blurb: There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision.

Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement.

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.


My take:

I met Karen at a bloggers/writers meet-up in London back in March and she kindly offered to send me a copy of The Safe Word. Thank you Karen. It’s a total coincidence that this week is also her blog tour for this book. And, if you head over to Have Books Blog, you can enter a draw to win a copy 🙂

This first installment in the Eleanor Raven series has everything fans of police procedurals could want. An escalating, chilling serial killer. A competent, hard-boiled female detective on his tail, struggling as she totes round a new partner who also happens to be an irritating rookie. A likeable cast of colourful secondary characters. Hell, there’s even a dog! Ultimately, the experience reminded me of watching some of the best crime drama I’ve seen. In fact, this book could easily be adapted into a cracking TV mini series.

The plot is skillfully handled. The threads draw together slowly, switching between various points of view on the police and criminal side of the story. But, despite all this viewpoint hopping and a couple of decent red herrings, we’re never confused as to what’s going on.

Another refreshing touch, setting this book apart from many thrillers I’ve read, is that the seasoned cops are actually competent and it’s not only the main character who is any good at her job. For me this added to the credibility of the story because I can never quite believe that all the detectives in a police precinct are unobservant, bumbling twits unable to solve crimes.

The dialogue was lively and convincing. And that’s not reviewer code of “swear-tastic”, although there is a fair bit of cursing. But, again, this added to the realism. I’ve never been convinced that the police, who have to deal with the worst of humanity, don’t feel the need to use expletives. I know I would.

The thriller/crime genre is necessarily formulaic and what distinguishes the reader’s experience of one book from another is the connection they feel to a particular set of characters. In the case of The Safe Word, I felt more drawn to the secondary characters than to Eleanor and this is probably why this was a 4, rather than 5-star read. However, this is the first installment in a series, and attachments to characters are built over time and books.

Overall: this is a gripping series opener which promises future outstanding installments. I look forward to reading book 2, The Vault.


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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11 thoughts on “Review | The Safe Word by Karen Long

  1. Sounds interesting. And yay for intelligent cops. That always bothers me, too, when everyone in the precinct (except maybe one) looks/acts like an idiot. Guess this one’s getting added to my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

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