The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

The Darkest Evening

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves (Vera Stanhope #9)
English | 2020 | Mystery/Thriller | ePUB | 3.1 MB

DCI Vera Stanhope returns in The Darkest Evening, the ninth novel in Sunday Times bestseller Ann Cleeves’ enduringly popular series.

Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope’s only thought is to get there quickly. But the snow is so heavy, she becomes disoriented and loses her way.

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?

A classic country house mystery with a contemporary twist, Ann Cleeves returns with a brilliant Vera novel to savour.

T WAS DARK AND FREEZING and Vera was starting to panic. Halfway home, she’d known the journey was a mistake. She should have listened to the team and spent the night in Kimmerston, waiting for the storm to blow over, but she’d thought she knew better. She’d mocked her colleagues for their anxiety, told them that extreme weather was unusual this early in the winter, even in rural Northumberland. And when was the weather forecast ever accurate?

She’d left the police station in a light dusting of snow, a gusty wind blowing it away from the street and into tiny drifts at the kerbs and in shop doorways. Now, on the higher ground, there was a blizzard and the flakes were so big and so thick that she had to lean forward and peer through the windscreen in an attempt to see her way. There were no lights, and even with four-wheel drive she was anxious that she’d come off the narrow road. She’d seen no other traffic since leaving the last village and felt completely alone, disorientated. She drove this route most days, had told her sergeant Joe Ashworth she could do it blindfolded, but now she was lost and felt bewildered and scared.

She came to a crossroads and changed gear, preparing to stop, so she wouldn’t have to use the brakes and cause a skid. There was a finger sign but the village names were covered with snow. She had a moment of real fear then, a complete lack of recognition. In her headlights she saw trees on one side of the road, a thick plantation of spruce. She must have missed a turn earlier. She left the engine running but climbed out to clear the signpost. In one direction was Sawley Bridge and in the other Kirkhill. Kirkhill would bring her closer to home, so she turned right. The road started to rise and her wheels spun. The snow was so deep here that she worried she would get stuck, but there was one set of tyre tracks for her to follow now. Some other foolish soul had been here not long before her and must have made it through.

She seemed to reach the top of a low hill and, in the distance, saw a light below her, almost hidden by the blizzard. The outskirts of Kirkhill village, perhaps. There was a pub in Kirkhill, and she had a feeling that it did food and had rooms. There were worse places to spend a night. The team need never know she’d made an arse of herself. Already she was starting to relax; she could feel the fire warming her bones and taste the first pint of beer. But when she turned the next bend, she almost drove into a car that had slewed off the road and come to a stop just before hitting a five-bar gate. The vehicle was white, almost camouflaged in the snow. The foolish soul hadn’t made it through after all. Vera pulled slowly past the car and came to a stop. The driver’s door was open and it was possible that someone had fallen out. She found a torch in the dashboard and climbed down from the Land Rover. The wind eased for a while and everything was very quiet and still.

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