The blurb isn’t going to bathe in that:
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.
The Vault begins on a massive rubbish dump in the heat of summer and the subsequent smell that lifts off the story, of acrid, acid chemicals and evil, goes downhill from there.
Long’s thriller features one of those skin-crawling antags who seems to bumble around the edge of everybody’s consciousness, but who is actually getting up to some pretty unpleasant things. Embalming people, making them human mannequins so that they can join his ‘family.’ Some of the details about his process will, I’m afraid to say, make a little bit of sick come up in your throat.
Actually, if you’re thinking of turning one of your loved ones into an Auton, then The Vault is a pretty good primer. The author takes us painstakingly through the process, lavishing us with all the gory details.
The killer comes from that school of deranged murderers who has travelled far beyond evil into a kind of twisted place that makes even cockroaches give him the cold-shoulder. Actually, the author delights in gleefully piling up the perversion. I don’t think there’s any kind of sexual deviancy, illegal or otherwise, that doesn’t get an honourable mention along the way.
Her protag, Eleanor Raven, returns from the first novel in the series, The Safe Word. Scarred and solitary, Raven lives in a twilight world and seems to be something of a trouble-magnet, which is very bad for her and very good for us.
She’s as unhappy and troubled as that grim and much-maligned bird who provides her surname. Raven is a complex character, brooding and self-harming, who carries around a heavy guilt that sucks any kind of happiness from her life. She may be a difficult so-and-so — you may not even take to her overmuch — but she’s a hard character to ignore, and hopefully The Vault gives her some kind of resolution to the more extreme demons that drive her. If Raven’s tribulations pile up, there’s also an empathetic cast of cops and law-enforcement personnel to provide banter and a bit of warmth.
It’s interesting that The Vault is set in Toronto, but I would have liked to have got a better sense of time and place – and of Canadians. At the moment the city is Made-for-TV bland, a generic place which is not quite realized as a character in itself.
But there’s a lot to enjoy in this macabre and chilling tale. Long is terrific at piling on The Creep, and you’ll probably want to take a bath after putting the book down. Just make sure nobody’s got there first and *just happened* to fill the tub with 250 litres of seventy per cent acetone.
Thanks to Karen Long for the review copy. Karen’s going to be doing a Guest Post right here in this little corner of the internet, and that’s coming up soon!