The Safe Word by Karen Long

Hello, friends!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I’ve been working on trying to find balance in my life with a new full time job and what I want to do now that I’m done with school, but I’m ready to dive headfirst back into this!

This is going to be a spoiler-FREE review of The Safe Word by Karen Long, which is the first novel in the DI Eleanor Raven series.  I’m trying to read my MASSIVE backlog of books from when I first got on Netgalley and requested pretty much everything, and this is one of the lucky winners that was on my Spookathon TBR.

The Safe Word - Karen Long

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.”

I felt very meh about this. The overall idea was interesting and I really enjoy detective-based thrillers/crime novels, but I just didn’t quite connect with this story.

The plot itself felt very realistic, and the pacing was interesting. Like I said, I enjoy detective-based books and reading from an officer’s perspective. I liked the fact that everything was constantly moving, and the way that they found clues seemed realistic (at least for me, someone who hasn’t worked as a detective/police officer and hasn’t read a lot of it). The killer was creepy but also deranged and sloppy and that was a strong point for me.

I could predict nearly every single plot twist, and even if I couldn’t, I wasn’t all that impressed with them. There was one twist that just had me shaking my head in disbelief. I don’t want to spoil anything since it’s definitely a huge part of the plot, but I didn’t think it made sense at all.

Towards the end of the story, I felt like the pacing got weird. The story felt so realistic, I could completely understand where everything was coming from, then in the last 20% all of the timing was SO convenient and perfect, like everything ended with a little bow tied up around it. It felt a little like the plot was moving at regular speed, and then it got put into slow-mo for a very specific portion.

I hated the characters. Eleanor is rude and acts like a child about her new partner, which is both understandable and yet so irritating. She’s convinced her previous partner, who can barely walk anymore without wheezing, is going to come back to the station and resume duties, and she can’t be convinced any other way. She doesn’t give Laurence much of a chance, especially at the beginning, but he doesn’t give her much to go off of, either.

Laurence is this goof of a guy who tries to charm his partner but is hopeless at the actual job of being a detective. He’s sweet, but kind of stupid. Part of that might be influenced by Eleanor treating him like he’s stupid, so maybe take that with a grain of salt. By the end he magically figures out how to be a great detective, so at least we get a little development.

The side characters were all annoying and forgettable. They were kind of funny sometimes, but mostly the same person with a slightly different dialogue and always rude.

I HATED Eleanor’s “dark secret”. The book immediately starts with you finding it out, and then you see small sprinkles of it throughout the story, but NEVER to the extent that you would assume based on your first impression. It’s not that I have anything against the BDSM community, but it just felt so random and convenient for the plot. I guess that’s the point, but it still just felt so out of place. There could have been a million reasons for the ending to happen, but it had to be tied back into this secret? It also created this incredibly weird subplot that was a bit of a red herring.

I also don’t feel as though the representation was very good. The only people who you see as part of the BDSM community were kind of slimy individuals, or they just seemed like total whacks; not a great way to show off an already misunderstood group of people. The representation for other minority groups didn’t impress me much either; they were often stereotypes and it was incredibly frustrating at times.

On a similar vein, I disliked the setting immensely. It didn’t feel like it was a real place. There are sex clubs with the most stylized people in them. Maybe I live in a very conservative area, but I’ve never seen a club so blatantly sexual and possibly illegal, like, ever. It felt entirely too fictional for what I had expected. Though in reflection, a book with the title “The Safe Word” is probably going to be a little bit focused on the raunchy.

I felt very average about the actual writing of the book. I’ve certainly read worse, but I wasn’t blown away either. Finally, I KNOW that you can’t judge a book by it’s ARC, but the formatting of the file I got drove me nuts. I hope that the actual book isn’t like it; there were grammatical errors, weird line breaks, and NO SCENE BREAKS. So the scene would change and there would be no indication of it, which made reading very confusing. While this didn’t necessarily change the way I would rate the book, it did pull me out a few times.

Overall, it felt very much like the beginning of a series, but not one that I think I would continue.

Rating: 3 Book

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

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