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The Darkest Evening: Vera Stanhope    by Ann Cleeves order for
Darkest Evening
by Ann Cleeves
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Darkest Evening is the ninth in Ann Cleeves' engaging series starring strong willed DI Vera Stanhope and her colleagues, especially the one she relies on most, DS Joe Ashworth.

Heading home one snowy night, Vera finds herself lost, and comes upon a car skidded off the side of the road. Its door is open and a toddler is inside. Vera takes the child to the nearest house, seeking help, and ends up at Brockburn, which used to be her disreputable father's family home - he was the black sheep of the family, and Vera was embarrassed by their visits to the Stanhope mansion. She felt like 'Cinderella looking in.'

Her arrival with the baby interrupts a lively Christmas party, hosted by Vera's cousin Juliet and her husband Mark, also attended by Juliet's mother Harriet. Orchestrating the event from the kitchen is Juliet's friend and housekeeper, Dorothy (she, her husband Karan and their son have a cottage on the estate). Mark has invited friends and acquaintances to Brockburn to make a fundraising pitch to turn their home into a theatre 'in the heart of Northumberland.'

Soon, the babe's mother is found nearby, murdered, and Vera's team moves into action. As secrets are uncovered, clues point to different players in these events, suspicion shifting among them. As usual, Vera's insights unravel the convoluted mystery, which includes another murder. She barely stops a third, at great personal risk. Along the way, she helps Juliet and a friendship of sorts develops. This is another intriguing procedural for Vera, Joe and company!

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