THE DARKEST EVENING - Ann Cleeves
The Vera Stanhope Series
A Perfect 10
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-1-250-20450-9 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-250-20452-3 (eBook)
September 2020
Mystery

Northumberland - Present Day

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope left the police station for home during the first winter snowstorm of the year. She scoffed at her team for their concern about the weather because   her trusty Land Rover would get her to her rural cottage with no issues. But the farther she traveled, the worse the storm got, and she could barely make out the road in the swirling blizzard. Taking the turn she thought would get her home, Vera suddenly came upon another vehicle that had obviously slid off the road. The driver's door was open and there was no sign of the occupant as Vera checked the area. As she headed back to her car, she heard a cry, returned to the other car, and found a toddler strapped into a car seat. Obviously she couldn't leave the child behind, so Vera hauled the seat and the child into her Rover and headed to the nearest house - a house that was all too familiar.

Brockburn house belonged to the last of the Stanhope family, excluding Vera, of course. It had belonged to her cousin Crispin, her father's nephew, but since his death only his wife, daughter, and son-in-law lived there now. Hector, Vera's dad was the black sheep of the family, raising his daughter alone after his wife's death, had never fit in, and, consequently, Vera had very little to do with her family. So, turning up at the door during a blizzard with a child was going to come as a shock to the Stanhopes. To make things more complicated, they were hosting a dinner party. 

Crispin's daughter, Juliet, answered the door, allowing her husband and mother to keep chatting with their guests. Her husband was planning to ask their carefully chosen guests to help fund his idea to turn Brockburn into a theater for the locals, with hopes of attracting others from the city. Juliet, a rather meek mannered woman was going along with the idea, although her mother wasn't thrilled. Now, here is her cousin Vera showing up on the doorstep with a toddler. Dorothy, a tenant on the estate, is Juliet's friend and the housekeeper/cook/organizer, takes charge. But while they are discussing the abandoned car, another tenant arrives in his tractor to pick up his daughters who had been helping out with dinner. He is obviously shaken, for he's found a dead woman nearby in the snow. 

THE DARKEST EVENING begins in a blizzard, not only of snow, but a plethora of possible suspects who may have murdered young Lorna, baby Thomas' mother. Lorna's sad past, the people who knew her, and those who may or may not be Thomas' father all are subjects of Vera's investigation along with her team of Joe Ashworth, Holly, and Charlie. Being this close to her family has brought back plenty of memories for Vera, not all good ones. Could they or their guests have murdered the girl? Plus, why is Dorothy a housekeeper after giving up a high paying job in the city? And then a second woman is found dead. 

The latest Vera Stanhope mystery is as riveting and satisfying as the previous books. As usual, Vera isn't concerned with being politically correct, could care less about her looks, and shows to all around her that her life revolves around her job. Still, there are a few poignant moments as Vera deals with plenty of memories of her often absent father, his many illegal habits, and that she may just have missed out on a few things in life. But first and foremost, her mind is constantly working on just who and why someone would kill two women. Her team may often resent being called at all hours of the night, but they grudgingly admire and respect Vera Stanhope. 

A Perfect 10, do not miss the latest Ann Cleeves novel, THE DARKEST EVENING.

Jani Brooks