Published: September 2020 by Macmillan
Category: Police Procedural, Crime Fiction, Book Review
On the first snowy night of winter, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope sets off for her home in the hills. Though the road is familiar, she misses a turning and soon becomes lost and disorientated. A car has skidded off the narrow road in front of her, its door left open, and she stops to help. There is no driver to be seen, so Vera assumes that the owner has gone to find help. But a cry calls her back: a toddler is strapped in the back seat.
Set in the beautiful and atmospheric county of Northumberland, The Darkest Evening is the ninth outing for Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope.
Ignoring the advice from her team and the weather predictions, Vera had set off for home in a light snow flurry, but on reaching higher ground the snow storm had turned into a full blown blizzard. She could hardly see where she was going, much less recognise anywhere and the snow was so disorientating she missed her turn. Thankfully she was able to make out lights in the distance. As she made her way slowly down the track she noticed an abandoned car in front of her, the driver’s door open wide. She went to investigate, finding no sign of the driver but saw a toddler in the back seat. She left a note in case the driver returned and, with no mobile signal available, took the child to the nearest house, which happened to be Brockburn, the country estate belonging to relatives on her father’s side. Hector Stanhope had been the proverbial black sheep of the family and consequently Vera hasn’t seen any of her relatives since her teens.
‘Vera, we weren’t expecting you!’ She realised immediately that she’d let dismay creep into her voice. How rude that must sound. Was it possible that her mother, who was becoming ever more eccentric, had invited the woman without letting Juliet or Mark know. ‘I’m sorry, do come in out of the cold.’
‘Hello, pet.’ Vera came in and stamped her boots on the mat to get rid of the snow. ‘I’m not gatecrashing, honest. I’ve got a bit of a situation.’
‘What sort of situation?’
‘Well, there’s this.’ Vera looked down and Juliet saw a sleeping child in a car seat. ‘Do you think I could bring it in? It’s freezing out here. It’s asleep at the moment.’ She looked at Juliet as if her opinion mattered.