On the first snowy night of winter, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope sets off for her home in the hills. 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.
In the time honored tradition of Agatha Christie, among others, Cleeves buries a number of secrets amongst the isolated group. Some are related to the death of this young woman, while others are tantalizing red herrings that do much to turn the characters into flesh-and-blood people ... Since the investigation involves those from all levels of the social hierarchy in this small village, Ann Cleeves is able to make minute but significant observations about human interaction. One of her hallmarks is that the depiction of the investigation and the logical leaps made by the authorities must feel as authentic and accurate as is humanly possible. As is her wont, all the necessary clues abound for the canniest of readers to figure out. Of course, true to form, the clues are obfuscated successfully. She is a master of misdirection albeit that she never cuts corners on her way to revealing the culprit ... To date, Ann Cleeves has written nine Vera Stanhope novels. Her gift is that she manages to make each of them feel as fresh and exciting as when readers first met Vera back in The Crow Trap. The Darkest Evening is another page-turner from one of the best in the genre.
The Darkest Evening abounds in metaphors and memories ... If you’re on team Vera Stanhope, what Ann Cleeves has for you is a complicated, absorbing mystery. An early holiday present, if you like ... we come away with a deeper understanding and respect for Vera, her failsafe methods of detection, and the choices she’s made for her life.
In Ann Cleeves's The Darkest Evening, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, who polices England’s Northumberland countryside, can’t help but fear the worst when she comes upon a car abandoned in the midst of a blizzard, with a snow-suited toddler strapped in the backseat ... 'This whole case,' Vera comes to see, 'was about families, about what held them together and what ripped them apart.'