We went to the mountains for a week, just to get away and relax. It was a perfect time, no pressure, no demands and plenty of time to rest and relax. As usual, I took a good book and spent plenty of time sitting on the back porch reading. Of course, it’s hard to compete with this view.
As lovely as the scenery was, I had no trouble letting it be the backdrop for this year’s book; The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves. If you have read any of Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope books or seen any of the shows then you don’t need any further information. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend it all, and there’s no better place to start than with this book. It doesn’t matter if it’s part of a series nor does it matter that this is not the first book in the series. This book stands alone, with enough information about Vera’s team members that you will feel well versed in who they are and how they function. Here’s my full review.
Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Vera Stanhope. That said, this book fulfills all my expectations regarding the writing, the mystery, the pacing, and the solution. From the outset, the book is engaging as Cleeves begins with a quick look at the victim. Throughout the book the point of view is most often Vera Stanhope’s, with occasional peeks into the minds of two of her detectives; Joe and Holly, as well as even shorter peeks into the minds of some of the suspects.
In this novel, Vera has decided, against the advice of her team, to try and drive home late at night in the middle of a snowstorm. She gets lost momentarily and in her attempt to find her way she comes upon a car stopped in the snow with the door open. Taking a closer look, Vera discovers an infant in a carseat in the back.
As she tries to work her way out of this situation, Vera realizes she is not far from the Stanhope ancestral home and although her father was a disgraced member of the family, she decides she will press forward into the house to seek shelter for the child. As things progress, she learns the child’s mother, who is an unwed young woman from the area, has been found dead in the snow; brutally murdered.
The Stanhope family is not sure how Vera should be treated, but as a member of the police she takes charge and soon is treating them the way she would treat any suspects in a murder case. The contrast between Vera, who has little concern for the opinions of others and Harriet, the matriarch of the Stanhope family who lives and dies by her reputation is well drawn. The various characters are all well developed with details provided throughout the book that allow for a clearer picture and deeper understanding of these individuals.
As expected, there are twists and turns throughout the book as people’s positive traits along with their past and present foibles are revealed. As Vera explains, it’s a murder investigation and nothing is irrelevant. The investigation is conducted in large part by Vera with some additions from Joe and Holly which give insight into how the team functions as well as how Very works to get her staff to develop good investigative skills.
From the very first page, I was engaged in the novel and didn’t want to put it down. When I had to interrupt my reading I found myself thinking about the book, picturing the individuals in it and imagining what would happen next. The solution, while a twist, was not a surprising one; but that in no way detracted from the novel. This is a book any lover of detective fiction would enjoy and is a must not miss for anyone who is a Vera Stanhope fan.
I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me an advanced read digital copy of this novel. The opinions expressed in this review are unbiased and entirely my own.
I enjoyed every minute of being in a cabin in the mountains. It’s a magic place for me and I use the time to renew and refresh. I also use the time to read; and maybe that’s the best of all. Happy reading!