The Darkest Evening (Vera Stanhope #9) by @AnnCleeves #CrimeFiction set in Northumberland #FridayReads


Author: Ann Cleeves

Published: September 2020 by Macmillan

Category: Police Procedural, Crime Fiction, Book Review

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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.

Although a house party was in full swing Vera wasn’t about to be intimidated by ‘minor aristos’ as she thought of her relatives. She needed to rouse DS Joe Ashworth and DC Holly Jackman and begin the task of finding out who the car, and more particularly the baby, belonged to. News soon arrived that a body has been found and since the victim had a fatal head wound, it was an obvious murder scene.

The Darkest Evening is a complex character driven police procedural with a list of several suspects, all centred around a small community with secrets, gossip and undercurrents at its heart. The story is told in the third person so we get Joe and Holly’s perspective as well. It was interesting to find out more about their characters—how Joe juggled family life with the job and his thoughts on Vera and Holly, and Holly’s need for recognition from Vera which pushed her to always try to get one up on Joe, who was Vera’s favourite. We also learn more about Vera, her background and family history.

Evocative and atmospheric scene setting gave an immediate sense of place, with the biting cold wind and deep snow blanketing the isolated countryside. Engaging and well plotted, the story unfolds at a steady pace with mounting tension, revealing a conclusion I hadn’t considered.

Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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About the Author

Ann Cleeves is the author behind ITV’s Vera and BBC One’s Shetland. She has written over twenty-five novels, and is the creator of detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez – characters loved both on screen and in print. Both series are international bestsellers.

In 2006 Ann was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger (CWA Gold Dagger) for Best Crime Novel, for Raven Black, the first book in her Shetland series. In 2012 she was inducted into the CWA Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame. Ann lives in North Tyneside.

Author links ~ Website | Twitter | Facebook

17 thoughts on “The Darkest Evening (Vera Stanhope #9) by @AnnCleeves #CrimeFiction set in Northumberland #FridayReads

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