Cover detail of The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

Welcome to Day 4 of #12BooksofChristmas and I have a Christmassy crime novel for you today. I'm also feeling a little jealous of anyone reading this for the first time. I loved it. In case you have missed any of the other #12booksofchristmas they are listed below.

At the time of writing this review, it is actually March. That’s right dear reader, I spend all year hunting for the very best Christmas books for you all. Truth be told, I love it and I love a good Christmas book at any time of the year so this is no hardship. My lovely mother-in-law is a massive Ann Cleeves fan. She loves the novels, the TV series especially because she knows the landscape so well and has even seen it being filmed in her home city.

So I was delighted to discover that Ann Cleeves was holding a virtual event hosted by her good friend Steph McGovern and Waterstones. We both duly signed up and as an added extra ordered a copy of the book which we then decided to read as part of our family book group. I think I was 3 Chapters in when I knew this was going to be a #12 Books of Christmas.And as the novel went on, I loved it.

This is the 9th Vera Stanhope novel. This was my first Vera book. During the event, Ann said that it was OK to read the novels out of order and it certainly did not detract from my reading of this.


Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera becomes disoriented and stumbles on another car left on the road with the door open and no sign of the driver. Vera is shocked to discover a toddler strapped in the back seat. Worrying about the freezing temperatures, Vera bundles up the toddler and ventures to the nearest house, which she recognises as Brockburn a run-down stately home where her father once lived. Inside a Christmas party is taking place. As Vera tries to locate the child’s mother, a body is found. Vera now has a new case to solve.

My Thoughts

If I was to sum up this novel in one word, it would be crisp. The writing is superb. Not a word is wasted and everything is brought to a conclusion by the end. The other word I would use would be warmth. Even though this a novel about a murder set during a blizzard, there is real warmth in the writing of the characters and the love of the landscape.

Vera is fantastic, straight-talking and no nonsense. I almost breathed a sigh of relief when she announces that she was more trusting of people with shop bought biscuits, than those who make their own. Vera’s team are also equally devoted to her and Vera equally brings on, develops and looks after her own team, knowing much about their home life and the personal challenges they are facing.

The plot is great, murder in the grounds of a stately home and all in the lead up to Christmas. What is not to love?

I always think the sign of a great book is when you feel there is a hole in your life after finishing it. I definitely felt this way after finishing The Darkest Evening and was immediately on the hunt for more. So dear reader, if you are looking for a good police procedural event set at Christmas, then I would heartily recommend this. It’s brilliant!

For any budding writers out there, Ann discussed how she writes at the talk. She says she never really plans out her books in vast detail, just lets the plot unfold. She also advised that if you want to write a book, then just write it and get the whole thing down on paper or computer. You can always edit it, once you have it. The worst mistake to make is to write one chapter and then spend 6 months editing it. Get the whole thing down and then edit. Sage advice!

I'll be back tomorrow with a non-fiction book this time, and it is a wonderful one.