Title: The Darkest Evening
Author: Ann Cleeves
Published On: September 8, 2020
Publisher: Minotaur Books
From Ann Cleeves—New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows—comes the stunning new Vera Stanhope novel.
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.
Vera takes the child and, driving on, she arrives at a place she knows well. Brockburn is a large, grand house in the wilds of Northumberland, now a little shabby and run down. It’s also where her father, Hector, grew up. Inside, there’s a party in full swing: music, Christmas lights and laughter. Outside, unbeknownst to the revelers, a woman lies dead in the snow.
As the blizzard traps the group deep in the freezing Northumberland countryside, Brockburn begins to give up its secrets, and as Vera digs deeper into her investigation, she also begins to uncover her family’s complicated past.
I almost held on to this book until closer to winter, but my guilt for reading my advance copies on time won out. Thankfully, the dark, wintry setting this novel paints is realistic enough to provide the reader with ample room for the imagination to run wild.
“It was dark and freezing and Vera was starting to panic.”Ann Cleeves, The Darkest Evening
I don’t read many mysteries, but something about the synopsis for The Darkest Evening spoke to me, and I couldn’t resist requesting it on Netgalley. I’m happy I tried something new because I discovered I’m a fan. Despite The Darkest Evening being the ninth book in the Vera Stanhope series, (I did my research prior to requesting and made sure it could be read as a standalone) I never felt lost or confused about the characters. While I could tell there were other stories that had been told, the characters still stood on their own. And in fact, the hints at those other stories just made me want to pick them up.
I didn’t know when I started it how I would feel about the story being told from so many points of view, but it was easy to follow, and I quickly realized it’s necessary to the mystery being told.
I can see why this series has lasted so long, and why there’s a television adaptation based on the books. Vera is a great character. She’s surly, smart, and unmoved by what others think of her. It’s also refreshing to see an older woman portrayed with such honesty. She’s independent, and while she doesn’t like to admit she needs help, she will ask for it. She’s not perfect, and that’s what makes her so likable. The secondary characters are great, too. Joe, Vera’s right-hand-man, is stable and kind of the ‘everyman’ that most readers will identify with. Holly seems to be the newest and youngest addition to the team, and I enjoyed watching the character’s confidence grow along with Vera’s confidence in her.
The story kept me guessing until the end, which is always a nice surprise.
It’s also set right before Christmas, so this would also make a perfect read over the holidays. And if you’re lucky enough to read this one when it’s cold and snow is on the ground, build that fire up, grab your favorite blanket and cup of tea, and get ready to wander the Northumberland woods!
Thank you to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy.
Rating: (4 / 5)
About the Author
A Song For A Book
On Bookstagram I created a hashtag for when I include a song that reminds me of the book I’m sharing, #ASongForABook, I thought I’d make it a regular feature on my reviews, too.
The title of The Darkest Evening comes from Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, so I thought it only appropriate to find a song based on the poem, as well. “Miles” by Victoria Carbol is absolutely perfect.
Unsettled minds keep turning pages
Reliving those forgotten ages
Before these lips were naught but liars
Of these days I’ve grown so tired
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles and miles to go
Before I sleep
Have you read The Darkest Evening? Did you add it to your tbr? Let me know in the comments!