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Book Review: The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

Darkest Evening

You may have seen the 'Vera' TV series starring Brenda Blethyn who has made the character of DI Stanhope her own – if you’ve missed them, we’ve got them on DVD at the library. It’s an engaging watch with terrific characters, twisty plots and a stunning Northumberland setting. But the books are well worth checking out too.

In The Darkest Evening Inspector Vera Stanhope’s on her way home to her little place in the country when she makes a wrong turning. It’s snowing and she has to admit not a night to be out even in her trusty old Land Rover. When she finds a baby in an abandoned vehicle she takes the child to the nearest house to phone for help. What’s special about the place is it’s a manor house, and the ancestral home of the Stanhopes, to boot. They’re Vera’s family – her late father the black sheep.

While there’s a party on at the house, a murder victim lies in the snow and it will take all of Vera’s talents for sniffing out coincidences and secrets to get to the bottom of everything. All the while there’s snooty Harriet to deal with, Vera’s cousin’s wife, and wimpy Juliet under her mother Harriet's thumb, while Juliet’s husband Mark possibly only married Juliet for her house.

With a dangerous killer on the loose, there are the locals to interview – the farming families and nosy villagers who love to gossip. Lucky for Vera she’s got Joe and Holly on the job to do the legwork and come up with new leads. Short chapters make this the ideal pick up and put down read. Until the action starts to hot up.

Another body and Vera going it alone in the dark ramps up the tension. Not that the story ever flags as it’s such fun seeing Vera in the baronial home of her forefathers, so obviously a fish out of water, but not caring a damn.

It’s always lovely to catch up with Vera – this is the ninth book in the series so she’s like an old friend. Not that she’s easy. She’s a bit embarrassing with her knitted hat and gumboots, the shapeless skirts that have seen better days. Many a suspect has likened her to a bag lady. But our  Vera is a lot sharper than she looks. This gives the series a thread of humour that’s hard to resist. The new Vera book, The Woman on the Island, is out later this year – put it on your wishlist.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Darkest Evening

8 June 2022

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