In Southern Noir fiction writer, S.A. Cosby’s latest novel maintains his laudable pattern of mixing a deft and detailed crime mystery with vital and current social issues. He does so by telling a compelling story that is driven by richly layered, complex characters. In “All the Sinners Bleed”, the protagonist, Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Virginia. He came to the position after years of living in Indiana as an FBI agent. He left the agency and moved back to his hometown in the aftermath of his father’s stroke. Being there longer than he expected, he decided to settle in and found himself campaigning for the sheriff’s position. Between his experience in law enforcement and native to Charon County, Titus knows better than anyone that while his hometown might on the surface seem quaint and full of Southern charm, it is actually steeped in racism and secrets.
At the first anniversary of Titus’s election, a school teacher is killed by a former student and the student is fatally shot by Titus’s deputies. Those festering secrets are now out in the open and ready to tear the town apart. As the investigation gets underway, he unearths terrible crimes and a serial killer who has been hiding in plain sight. To make matters messier, local churches and their members and/or leadership, may be at the core of the crime. Along the way, Titus comes up against and is often impeded by some of the town’s white residents who were skeptical of a Black man running the department. Likewise and just as frustrating for Titus are some of the Black residents and leaders who voice concerns that Titus will stand up for and protect his own community. What Titus wants is block out the pressure and politics to run a thorough and honest investigation for the victims and their families.
‘Small towns are like the people that populate them. They are both full of secrets. Secrets of the flesh. Secrets of blood. Hidden oaths and whispered promises that turn to lies just as quick as milk spoils under a hot summer sun. The myth of Main Street in the South has always been a chaste Puritanical fantasy. The reality is found on back roads and dirt lanes under a sky gone full dark with no stars. In the back seat of rust mottled Buicks and the beds of ramshackle trucks. The heart of Charon County beat in time with the spirituals sung in church on Sunday morning. But it's soul is a truth that can scared from the sweat of illicit lovers, the blood that drops from the lip of the PTA president after her husband has had one too many too many times at The Watering Hole. It can be angered from the serial numbers on the 10's and 20's passed from the hands of Charon's favorite sons and daughters to the men and women who sell them a taste of the quiet that sends them on to dream land drooling. It's there dancing among the fumes of a kerosene heater in a freezing trailer that snatches the breath from a mother, a father and a baby boy.’
With any good mystery, it is the crime and the setup of the investigation that lures the readers in, but it is the investigator, his/her journey and supporting cast getting to the truth and executing justice that keep us turning the pages. Like previous titles by S.A. Cosby’s, “All the Sinners Bleed” is powerful, gripping and outright unforgettable as he navigates race, racism and faith. The only thing that can be better than reading it, is listening to the audiobook narrated by Adam Lazarre- White. He masterfully portrays a cast of characters ranging in age, gender and race.
S.A. Cosby is the New York Times national best selling award-winning author from Southeastern Virginia. His other books include Blacktop Wasteland,