The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

11th February 2021.

Like so many readers, I love Vera Stanhope. She’s distinctive, original, fascinating and about as unique a detective as you could meet. All of which makes her irresistible. Her work as a detective inspector is her life and her passion. With grit, determination, a wry sense of humour and a canny understanding of humour nature, she’s an unstoppable force when she’s on the hunt for a killer.

The relationships within her team, especially Joe and Holly, add an extra depth and dimension to the books and allow the reader to see how her colleagues view her. While they may question her methods and idiosyncrasies at times, they know she’s fearless, loyal, and usually right.

In this story, Vera’s battling a snow blizzard on her way to her house in the countryside. Temporarily lost and straying from her usual route, she chances upon an abandoned car with a baby, strapped into the back seat. The driver’s door is open and it isn’t long before Vera discovers the body of a young woman in the snow.

While this is no ordinary murder, the location is close to Brockburn, the Stanhope Ancestral home – the family she’s estranged from thanks to her father being the black sheep. Not only must Vera try to make sense of the murder, she’s forced to deal with relatives she has little in common with, along with their tenants, who make up the small community.

Is one of them a killer? Why was the victim on Stanhope land? Why did she abandon her baby in the car?

It’s a fascinating and painstaking investigation. Vera peels back the layers, revealing secrets, liaisons and plenty of suspects and motives. Holly and Joe also have their moments as they help Vera make her way through the mist (literally) to an exciting, breath taking climax.

Fast and furious it’s not, but this is a beautifully crafted murder mystery that’s absorbing, compelling and satisfying. It will stay long in the mind and make you want to read more.

Description

The darkest nights can hide the deadliest secrets . . .

Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope’s only thought is to get there quickly.

But with the snow driving down heavily, she becomes disorientated and loses her way, eventually stumbling on another car abandoned on the road. With the driver’s door open, Vera assumes the driver has sought shelter but is shocked to find a young toddler strapped in the back seat.

Afraid they will freeze, Vera takes the child and drives on, arriving at Brockburn, a run-down stately home she immediately recognizes as the house her father Hector grew up in.

Inside Brockburn a party is in full swing, with music and laughter to herald the coming Christmas. But outside in the snow, a young woman lies dead and Vera has a new case. Could she be the child’s mother and, if she is, what happened to her?

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves