Catching Up with Cosby

S.A. Cosby, I mean.

ALL THE SINNERS BLEED rating: 4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

While I think RAZORBLADE TEARS is a superior novel, I enjoyed ALL THE SINNERS BLEED (Macmillan, June 2023) more. I could easily see it becoming adapted into an Oscar-contender film or popular TV miniseries. Phenomenal pacing is Cosby’s forte, and he settles into a wonderful rhythm in this novel. The cringe-worthy violence is not just for shock value, but serves the plot and ratchets up the suspense. Or maybe I just like my main characters to be the good guys, plain and simple. Dare I hope for a series?

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan for sending this book to me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been meaning to catch up with S.A. Cosby, a stellar writer in total command of his prose. I’d put him right up there with James McBride (next novel: THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE, Penguin Random House, August 2023). I have not read MY DARKEST PRAYER by Cosby. Noir is really not my “thing” unless it’s hard-boiled white dudes in fedoras from 100 years ago, but librarians just kept raving about Cosby and I knew I was missing out, so I read his last two novels and my #ARC of his next one all in a row.

BLACKTOP WASTELAND (MacMillan, 2020) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and RAZORBLADE TEARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Macmillan, 2021) are gritty, raw, gory crime thrillers about Black ex-convicts who struggle to rein in inner chaos and a predilection for violence. The humor is dark.

Titus Crown, the main character of ALL THE SINNERS BLEED, is a good and honorable man who can’t abide even his honest misjudgments leading to bad outcomes beyond his control. As a Black sheriff of rural Charon County on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and a former FBI agent, Titus is caught at the crossroads of political turmoil while a pedophile mass murderer runs amok. He’s unpopular with the Black Lives Matter crowd who want the confederate statue removed and with the All Lives Matter crowd who want it to stay put. A brilliant perfectionist, Titus ran for office in order to change things for the better, but can anything in Charon County honestly change?

Threads that run through S.A. Cosby’s novels: racism; taking justice into your own hands; being “good enough” or “stable enough” for a wife and family or even just a relationship; loss of religious faith; and adults who let you down by checking out at key points in your young life due to addiction and/or imprisonment and/or death. He asks: how do you separate victimization and villainy when the two are often wrapped up in the same individual–and sometimes that individual is you?

ALL THE SINNERS BLEED reads more like a popular thriller than the two novels that preceded it. The humor is much lighter.

Reading context:

Titus Crown reminds me a bit of Penn Cage from the crime thriller series by Greg Iles 1Southern Man (HarperCollins, May 28, 2024) by Greg Iles will continue the Penn Cage series and interestingly, also feature a shooting and protests in a small southern town., coming slap-bang up against the old boy network of white supremacy mixed up with psychopathy and Christian nationalism in the cause of justice–but of course Penn Cage is white, and so there’s not much of a comparison with how this trauma is inhabited by and embodied within the Black man as he tries to wrestle against it. Cosby illumines this battle more poignantly that I can express.

I love the 2020s fiction trend with seniors solving crimes, a trend in which RAZORBLADE TEARS was an early entry. I really enjoy the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman2 The next book in this series is out in September 2023 and is titled THE LAST DEVIL TO DIE. and I loved KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE by Deanna Raybourn. There are many examples on both page and screen, a few of which are featured in this article.

What I’m reading right now:

ON OUR BEST BEHAVIOR: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good by Elise Loehnen (Penguin Random House, May 23, 2023)

#Black #SACosby #RazorbladeTears #BlacktopWasteland #AllTheSinnersBleed #crime #noir #southernnoir #JamesMcBride #TheHeavenandEarthGroceryStore #PennCage #GregIles #RichardOsman #ThursdayMurderClub #DeannaRaybourn #KillersofaCertainAge #SouthernMan #OnOurBestBehavior #EliseLoehnen #racism #SurprisingSeniors