MYSTERY

The Darkest Evening

Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Vera Stanhope, Bk. 9). Sept. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781250204509. $27.99. M
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DI Vera Stanhope rarely loses her way, literally or professionally. She knows her home patch in rural Northumberland intimately, but in a blinding blizzard she misses her usual turn for home. Struggling to find her way, she encounters an abandoned car on a snowy verge, its door open and a baby inside, with no sign of a parent. Worried, she leaves a note and her business card and takes the baby to a nearby manor house. Thus begins Cleeves’s latest “Vera Stanhope” mystery (after The Seagull), set in and around a country house owned by a branch of Vera’s own family. Her father, Hector, was in conflict with his elder brother whose family still live, in genteel poverty, in the crumbling estate. When the body of the baby’s mother is found on the house grounds, Vera untangles family ties and a close-knit village community, and investigates a second death before bringing the murderer to justice. Family dynamics and issues of social class, both Vera’s and others, dominate the story, and Vera must use all her intuitive skills to unravel the case.
VERDICT Superbly drawn characters, an absorbing plot, and a compelling narrative combine in a classic mystery that will delight both Cleeves’s fans and newcomers alike.

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