Agatha Christie

The Darkest Evening

""...Cleeves has really delivered an iconic detective who misses nothing...""


Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope's only thought is to get there quickly. But the snow is so heavy. Ploughing on, she sees a car slewed off the road ahead of her. With the driver's door open, Vera assumes the driver has sought shelter but when she inspects the car she is shocked to find a young toddler strapped in the back seat.

Afraid they will freeze, Vera takes the child and drives on, arriving at Brockburn, a run-down stately home she immediately recognizes as the house her father Hector grew up in.

Inside Brockburn a party is in full swing, with music and laughter to herald the coming Christmas. But outside in the snow, a young woman lies dead and Vera knows immediately she has a new case. Could this woman be the child's mother, and if so, what happened to her?

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As with many of her novels, Cleeves expertly interweaves the personal with the procedural. Here we find out more about Vera's upbringing and the divide between her father and the rest of the Stanhope family and how it shaped her childhood. Unexpected events bring the family together and Cleeves shows perfectly how 'politeness can be used as a weapon of mass destruction'. After a body is found on the Brockburn estate, the politeness becomes more chipped, strained as the investigation forces Vera to look into all the dark corners, including those of her own family. As with many of these families with large estates, the house has become jaded, unkempt, a cold mausoleum with rising bills that can only be met by selling land. Despite privilege, it doesn't always bring happiness. As always, Cleeves has a perfect ear for dialogue and knows when to bring in Vera's wit to lift the mood, or when to bring a touch of darkness to the case. With Vera, Cleeves has really delivered an iconic detective who misses nothing, even if she is a shambles with her wellingtons and knitted hat! As is often the case, Vera will put herself in harm's way just to get a case solved. This is another enthralling tale which would be perfect for a evening with a little nip of something to keep out the cold.

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons