The Darkest Evening

By Ann Cleeves

St. Martin’s Press

Pub date: 08-Sept-2020

Ann Cleeves book cover

AMBER LOVE 03-DEC-2020 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.

Publisher’s summary:

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.


The Darkest Evening is book nine of Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope series. It was my first exposure to this incredible female detective that my mother has been trying to get me into for years (she’s a big fan of the Vera show). Now I understand why.

Maybe it’s the difference between American and British writers and directors, but I’ve noticed how the American female detectives have to be stunningly beautiful, thin, and know every kind of combat technique; where the Brits write their women and detectives as real hardworking average people. I loved that about Vera. She’s ordinary but skilled.

In The Darkest Evening, there are so many family secrets and small town drama revealed. I could not guess who the murderer was. The pacing kept things moving forward especially since Cleeves allowed secondary characters in the detective unit to share their experiences working on the cases of the two murders which were clearly linked.

There are notes of domestic abuse in terms of gaslighting; a young woman maturing into her own but her male partner trying to control her life; and struggle for custody of a baby.

Rating: 5 stars

five star rating

Subscribe to my newsletter

Avoid those algorithms! Get news delivered to your inbox. You'll also receive a free short story when you subscribe!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.