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Pitch Black    by Susan Crandall order for
Pitch Black
by Susan Crandall
Order:  USA  Can
Forever, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Madison Wade knows she and her adopted son are in for a major culture shock when she trades in her fast-paced Philadelphia lifestyle for the quiet streets of Buckeye Tennessee. She's taken over the reins as editor of the local newspaper and is beginning to settle comfortably into her new niche, but not so her son. As a former street kid who'd been on his own for a long time, Ethan's having issues fitting in at school as well as shrugging off the tightly knit community's suspicions toward them. When Ethan is invited on an overnight campout, Madison is hopeful that small-minded attitudes are finally beginning to shift. But her optimism is short-lived - the outing turns into a nightmare when Ethan becomes the prime suspect in a grisly murder.

Sheriff Gabe Wyatt figured he'd been making good headway in romancing the gun-shy northern beauty who captured his attention the moment they met. But all bets are off once Ethan Wade is implicated in a shocking murder. Gabe has his doubts that the boy is guilty; Ethan might (like most normal teens) be tight-lipped and contrary, but underneath the bravado Gabe senses a generally decent and polite young man who'd do anything to protect his mother. Even so, he knows he cannot allow his personal feelings to cloud his judgement or ignore the mounting evidence against Ethan. Madison on the other hand, isn't happy with the direction of Gabe's investigation. She tells him so, and then decides to do a little snooping of her own, which only widens the rift between them. But there's another name on Gabe's suspect list - someone who's getting nervous and is set to commit further crimes to hide dark secrets that were never supposed to see the light of day in the first place.

Crandall's style is as skilful as ever, as is her flair for portraying small town southern life. For the most part she does a nice job maintaining an aura of mystery. However, as the killings escalate, the plotting tends to rely a bit too heavily on familiar devices. Crandall's characterizations are generally well done and believable, although Madison's aloofness sometimes feels contrived, as if the author was searching for a reason to create conflict between her leads. As a whole though, Pitch Black works, offering up a pleasing if uncomplicated murder mystery and an equally satisfying romance.

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