Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pitch Black - Susan Crandall

Pitch Black
Susan Crandall
Warner Forever

Romantic Suspense

Madison (Maddie) Wade moved from her high-powered job as an investigative journalist in Philadelphia to small-town Buckeye, TN, to give her newly-adopted son, Ethan, more stability and better chance to grow up right. Now the editor of the local daily paper, Maddie is only beginning to realize that, as the newcomers in a small Southern town, assimilating isn’t going to be that easy. The locals are suspicious of her “Northern” “big city” ways. Her front-page series, dealing with the death of a high school athlete from steroid abuse does nothing to endear her to the populace.

Ethan, now a teenager, has lived with Maddie for only two years. Before that, he was street kid, surviving on his wits. When he begged to go on a mountain camping trip with his only friend, Jordan, his stepfather, Steve, and some other boys, Maddie reluctantly agreed. That trip ends in disaster. The four boys make it back, covered in mud and blood. Jordan is almost catatonic; they’re all clearly in shock. The previous evening, Steve died, apparently after a fall. The boys stayed with his body overnight then hiked back down the mountain.

Steve was a very experienced climber and outdoorsman, but sheriff Gabe Wyatt knows that accidents can happen to anyone at any time. Being cautious, he treats it as a crime scene, but is shocked when the ME tells him that this death was no accident. Steve sustained several blows to the head. As the outsider, Ethan comes under immediate suspicion, especially when he tells Maddie – and later, Gabe – that he felt the need to protect Jordan from his stepfather. If it were any other kid, Gabe would be going after him full-bore. But Gabe is already half in love with Maddie, and is trying to balance his duties as sheriff with his feelings.

This is romantic suspense, but the emphasis is clearly on the suspense side. That works out just fine for this story. There’s plenty going on, both in the main plot and a few subplots. The difficulties that Maddie and Ethan encounter while trying to fit in ring very true. I admit, I had the ‘bad guy’ pegged about halfway through the book, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment at watching the story unfold. There are enough viable suspects to make things interesting to the end. There is an undercurrent of romance, of course, mainly played out in the way Maddie and Gabe must weigh what information they share with each other. As always, this author’s writing is a delight, and keeps the pages turning effortlessly.

Rating: 7 ½
June 2008
ISBN# 0-446-17856-X (paperback)


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