First Line: Lorna lifted Thomas from his high chair and held him for a moment on her knee.
Vera should've known better than to head for home in the middle of a blizzard. Even though the route is familiar, she misses a turn and finds herself lost. Finally getting her bearings, she almost hits an abandoned car just on the other side of a sharp turn. The car door is open, and Vera stops to help, but the driver is gone, probably walking for help. However, she does find a toddler strapped in a carseat in the back of the vehicle.
Leaving a note and taking the child, Vera finds herself at a place she knows well: Brockburn, a grand house in the wilds of Northumberland where her father, Hector, grew up. Inside Brockburn, there's a party in full swing. Outside, a woman lies dead in the snow.
Vera and her team find themselves trying to find the child's mother and to identify the dead woman. Slowly, secrets begin to be revealed, and some of those secrets concern the complicated past of Vera's own family.
All's well with my world when there's a new Ann Cleeves mystery to savor, and I settled down with The Darkest Evening ready to enjoy a visit with one of my favorite fictional characters, Vera Stanhope. In this ninth book of the series, readers get to learn more about the rich and entitled branch of Vera's family about which she says, "That branch of the clan used politeness as a weapon of mass destruction." Deep in the winter snow and cold, we find that Vera is longing for the comfort of a bit of family and for a few like-minded friends-- all on her own terms, of course-- and I enjoyed Vera's reflections on her life.
Holly and Joe, the stars of Vera's hardworking team, also figure prominently in The Darkest Evening. From time to time, Holly reminded me of a young Vera, but then I realized that she was more like a sponge-- watching Vera, listening to her, absorbing the invaluable lessons the older woman has to share. In the meantime, Joe is Joe, although he does have trouble understanding an illness like anorexia which does have a part in the story.
The only thing that I didn't find to be "up to snuff" was the mystery itself, although I certainly did enjoy watching the investigation unfold. It was altogether too easy to deduce the killer's identity. But the rest is choice and what fans have come to expect from Ann Cleeves. Now if only I didn't have to wait for my next opportunity to tag along with Vera on an investigation!
The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
Minotaur Books © 2020
eBook, 336 pages
Police Procedural, #9 Vera Stanhope mystery
Source: Net Galley