Monday, September 28, 2020

Winter Comes to Northumberland

Vera Stanhope #9
Ann Cleeves
Minotaur Books
September 8, 2020

It's the first snowstorm of winter in Northumberland, and DCI Vera Stanhope is headed home. Despite having driven the lonely road thousands of times, she misses a turning and becomes disoriented. Suddenly she sees a car on the side of the road, door open, and she stops to investigate. No driver is to be found, but there is a toddler strapped into a car seat. Vera knows nothing about children, but she realizes she needs to get the child to warmth and safety. Soon she realizes precisely where she is, the local "big house", Brockburn, where her father, Hector, grew up. The Stanhopes of Brockburn have had very little to do with Vera, but the daughter of the house, Juliet, recognizes her and welcomes her in. Juliet and her husband, theater director Mark Bolitho, are having a party, but Juliet and her housekeeper soon get the child warm, fed, and changed. No one knows who the child might be. That changes soon when the tenant farmer arrives with news of a young woman with a massive head injury found in the snow. She is Lorna Falstone, a local with a history of eating disorders and mental health issues. Nobody knows who the father is. The Darkest Evening is a crime novel, with a feeling of a throwback to classic Agatha Christie "country house" mysteries. It is also a story about families and how they intertwine in small, still somewhat feudal communities. Lorna's family, the Stanhopes, the tenants, and even the Brockburn housekeeper have secrets and stories to tell. Even if they really don't want to let go of their secrets.

I have been catching up on the Vera TV series, but have never gotten around to reading the books. I was delighted to get an advance copy from Minotaur and add the rest of the books to my list. Vera is a fascinating character, gruff, dumpy, and poorly dressed. It's clear from Brenda Blethyn's portrayal that Vera has a soft center hidden away, and that center is on display in The Darkest Evening. It's a tragic story that has a little hope and reconciliation for many of the characters. It also kept me guessing until nearly the end.

Thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Perfect Antidote to Pandemic (and other assorted) Blues


The Case Files of Henri Davenforth #5
Honor Raconteur
Raconteur House
September 17, 2020

The crime-solving team of Henri Davenforth, Royal Mage Seaton, and Detective Jamie Edwards are faced this time with murders among the upper crust. The bodies of the Atwoods, a wealthy couple are found in their country house, posed in an odd manner. The pose duplicates a statue in another part of the house.and magic was clearly employed. The Atwoods were friends of Henri's parents and their grieving children approach him to investigate. The local police have declared the deaths murder-suicide with no real investigation. There is a lot going on that has been hidden, and some of it about the Atwoods themselves.

I have enjoyed this series since discovering it. The characters are, including the secondary cast, all vividly described and develop in every book. I love the world-building with its magic, were people, and vaguely Victorian/Edwardian setting. We get new adorable characters, crime-solving magically constructed kittens. Three Charms, simply put, is a delightful escape from everyday reality, with more than a touch of romance this time.

I highly recommend the series as a perfect escape read.

RATING- 4.5 Stars rounded up to 5