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.
This is Cleeves (and Vera) at her best with snappy dialog, well-drawn characters, and the gorgeous Northumbrian scenery we’ve come to expect in the series. Cleeves take time to further develop not only Vera’s character but also DC Holly Jackman, who is becoming an increasingly interesting character. Cleeves brings the rural English village and country manor to life in a way that feels real. This isn’t the idealized village of Christie or Beaton, but one of gritty, sometimes boring real life.
Fans will surely read this one in a single sitting as I did. If you haven’t read Cleeves’ “Vera” books before, start at the beginning and work your way up to this one.
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Published By: St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy