A Day in the life of… DI Eleanor Raven

Eleanor Raven is the protagonist of The Safe Word and The Vault.

Born in 1982 and educated at Ryerson University, she was promoted to the rank of Detective Inspector for Toronto PD homicide division in 2011.

imagesI always start my day with a good breakfast, as I find lunch is a frequent sacrifice. I like a mixture of oats, granola, berries and a cup of black coffee. Generally, I listen to the local news and flick through yesterday’s paper. I’m out by the time the current edition arrives. Toronto is a city of weather extremes and at the moment it’s hovering around the 4-6 C mark, so trousers are a must (I only own one skirt!), lined, flat-heeled boots, jacket and overcoat. The city does not allow police officers to carry weapons off-duty but as cleaning and maintenance are time consuming and essential, I bring mine to and from duty in my handbag, when I remember to un-holster. I carry a Glock .19 and have never discharged my weapon, apart from on a firing range.

toronto rain

I usually get to my office by 7 30 am, at the latest. This gives me sufficient time to catch up with paperwork, check any reports or results that have been processed over the past twenty-four hours and drink my second cup of coffee as I review the murder board. Once my partner, Detective Whitefoot, arrives there’s not much in the way of reflective time. So, the half hour before he gets here is mine. The murder board is more than just a way of organising photographs, maps and names, it’s a method of sifting the evidence and allowing your unconscious brain to play around with the facts, create a plausible scenario or link people with motivation. I drop my mind into neutral and just wait for the processing to take place.

Laurence’s arrival is a kick-start. He hasn’t created a routine yet and has a tendency to flap around, particularly if he hasn’t dropped Monster off at k9. Today is one of those days and Laurence, who doesn’t seem to recognise the need for routine in others either, will spend ten minutes calling the dog, who is just doing his rounds. Monster makes his way through homicide, takes the back stairs down to the canteen, where I assume he is given his second breakfast, and then comes back. It’s not rocket science and it concerns me that my partner, whom I depend upon to save my life, hasn’t worked out that Monster needs fifteen minutes to carry out his own business.


It’s a slow day. With likely court appearances on the horizon for the Toby Adams case, I am getting my files and notes in order. It seems likely that the DA will be select three of his known murder victims to secure a first-degree conviction for Adams.

At 2.28pm we are called to attend a potential homicide in the Kensington Market region of the city. The patrol officers have already accessed the locked apartment and discovering the occupant in an advanced state of putrefaction, called it in. The body is male, probably over fifty, naked, apart from a pair of underpants and is sprawled between the bedroom and the kitchen. The cause of death appeared to be a gunshot wound to the jaw. The weapon, a small caliber handgun is discovered several feet away from a blood covered wooden chair. A quantity of dried blood has pooled below the chair and several footprints led from it to the victim. Although I have responsibility, as a senior investigating officer, to determine whether the manner of death could be considered suspicious, in this case the forensic investigators and the medical examiner all agree that, unless contradictory evidence is uncovered at the post mortem, it is likely that the victim took his own life. Having placed the gun near to his temple and pulling trigger, the bullet entered just below his cheekbone. He was probably unconscious for several minutes, when most of the blood loss took place. Regaining consciousness, he then staggered towards the bathroom where he collapsed and succumbed to shock.

bloody hand

I arrive back in my apartment at 9.43pm. I run my bath, pour a large glass of wine and let the day’s events percolate.

My house raven…A lesson in sociopathy

Sociopath noun: person with a psychopathic personality whose behaviour is antisocial, often criminal and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

harry on post

Harry came to us in 2009 as a captive bred baby raven. He was pale and featherless, apart from a covering of soft penned feathers still rolled into their protective sheath. His beady, attentive eyes were slate blue, his beak black, over large and pastel pink inside. He eyed us – I should qualify that – me with deep and lasting suspicion. His unconditional love was reserved solely for my husband. We had cared for crows and ravens before but Harry wasn’t wild or injured. He was our family pet.
His growth was rapid and invasive. Having begun life in a cardboard box he now declared the house his own and the 18 x 9ft aviary we’d built for night use and safety, was nice but not for him. Many a fruitless hour was spent trying to coax Harry into the aviary. He loved this game often feigning interest in entering, placing a claw tentatively on the threshold, waiting for me to move into ‘door securing’ position and then torpedoing off for another investigation of the garden. I would place tantalising morsels of food into the entrance of the aviary, including the universally acknowledged ‘all species’ favourite, ‘Wotsits’. This was deemed beyond fair play and would send Harry into an apopleptic rage that generally resulted in him delivering a well-placed beak hammer to some vulnerable part of my anatomy, ankles and headshots being choice.

harry CU

Harry was not encouraged to explore on his own, an opinion which he didn’t give two hoots about. His roaming was finally curtailed when a lady in our village, who bred Chihuahuas called us to say that if she caught ‘that bloody bird’ dragging her dogs round the garden one more time by their tails and ears, her husband would dispatch him with his twelve bore. Harry also delighted in peeling all the rubber seals off our neighbour’s car, stole and hid their gardening equipment and would land heavily onto the wing mirrors of moving vehicles in order to terrify postal workers.
Harry’s relationships with other species were complex and unpredictable. He loved our three dogs and would often stand proprietorially next to them while they slept. He would also devote hours concocting new methods of tormenting and antagonising them. I’d watch him saunter casually past our Labrador as he slept and bury his claws into his snout. He’d then take lazily to the air and observe the chaos from the roof of the aviary. He perfected barking, so I’d open the back door to let in a dog and Harry would barge past me into the house shrieking triumphantly and as his home invasions were generally destructive, I would race after him, shrieking as loudly.

roxie being stroked

Harry’s nemeses were the chickens. Large and dangerously stupid they would ignore him as he sat glowering on the fence planning the day’s assault. He’d finally spot an opportunity, fluff himself up and launch. The hens would all instantly rush at him, stomping and kicking until sure that today’s lesson had been delivered and then go back to their scratchings. Harry would then be forced to sit in next door’s garden his back to us, head slumped between his wings, looking like a sulky Count Dracula.

With the amateur scientist’s zeal for experimentation we would spent hours inventing new food rewarded puzzles for Harry. These would involve string, twigs and Tupperware containers, none of which lasted more than mere moments. What couldn’t be manipulated instantly by brainpower would be ripped apart with claw and beak. Delayed gratitude was an anathema.

Heartbreakingly Harry is no longer with us. What he left, apart from the destruction and scars, was a deep belief that consciousness is a dimmer switch and not the sole possession of homo sapiens. It is easy to anthropomorphise a loved pet but it was hard not interpret his sulkings, shrieks, determination and ability to swoop from a hundred feet and springboard off the top of my skull as anything other than the pleasure that accompanies intelligence.

Harry on head