Buckeye, a Small Southern Town – Present Day
Madison Wade moved to the small Southern town of Buckeye with her adopted teenaged son Ethan to provide a safer place for him to grow up, far away from the streets of Philadelphia. While Madison sometimes chafes at the slow pace at the local newspaper where she is the editor, there are benefits to life in Buckeye. One of those perks is the handsome sheriff, Gabe Wyatt. Since moving to Buckeye and meeting Gabe, the two have played a slow game of advance and retreat. Madison would love to explore a relationship with Gabe, but she’s wary of starting something when she and Ethan are still adjusting to their new life and each other.
Madison reluctantly allows Ethan to go on a weekend camping trip with three of the boys from school, and the father of one of the boys, Steve McPherson, who is an experienced camper and well liked in town. When the boys do not come down the mountain on time, Madison gets worried and calls Gabe. He agrees to drive up to the mountain with her, but assures her that the rainy weather may have slowed Steve and the boys down. When they arrive at the base of the woods where Steve’s car is parked, it becomes apparent that something has gone wrong. Madison and Gabe see the four boys trudging down the mountain, wet, muddy and bloody. They learn that Steve is dead, evidently from a fall off the cliffs at the waterfall. Concerned with getting the boys dry and warm, Gabe radios in for a rescue team to find Steve and ushers the boys into town and to the hospital. Three of the boys are treated and released, including Madison’s son Ethan, but Josh, Steve’s stepson, is catatonic. When Steve’s body is discovered, at first glance it appears that he indeed died from a fall, but after an autopsy reveals injuries inconsistent with what they thought happened, Gabe realizes that Steve’s death was no accident and perhaps the boys aren’t telling the whole truth.
When one of the boys on the camping trip is found dead, apparently from a fall off a bridge, suspicion mounts about what really happened on the mountain. When that suspicion falls on Ethan as the newcomer and a troubled teen, Madison realizes she is going to have to dig for the truth if she is going to save her son. Madison can’t trust anyone, not even the man she was starting to fall for.
From the first page, PITCH BLACK captures the reader’s attention. From the budding relationship between Gabe and Madison to the fragile bond between Ethan and Madison, each character, action, and reaction is riveting. The question of who killed Steve McPherson and one of the boys remains at the center of the story, but an equally dangerous mystery also lurks in the shadows of Buckeye. Who is supplying performance enhancements drugs to the local high school jocks and ultimately caused the death of one of the football players? As Madison continues to search for clues to help Ethan, she is also the investigative reporter on the doping scandal, and she isn’t sure if it’s her questions about Steve or the drugs that pose the greatest risk. While PITCH BLACK is primarily a mystery/suspense novel, the relationship between Madison and Gabe provides a touch of romance that adds to the over all enjoyment of the book. The relationship between Madison and Gabe never eclipses the mystery but adds a layer of personal sacrifice and struggle to the case as Gabe tries to balance his responsibilities as sheriff with his growing desire for Madison. A nail biting who-dun-it, PITCH BLACK is a novel I highly recommend.