All the Sinners Bleed

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By S. A. Cosby; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman

ALL THE SINNERS BLEED has been listed on just about every “Best Book” list of the season. And for good reason.

Author S. A. Cosby takes a good character and puts him in circumstances that squeeze like a vice.

When this book opens, Titus Crown, Charon County’s first black sheriff, is getting ready for another day of keeping order in the community where he grew up. The worst thing on his mind that October morning is how to peacefully manage a parade planned by the Sons of the Confederacy at the upcoming Charon County Fall Fest.

He hasn’t even finished his morning coffee when a call comes in about a shooting at the high school.

The shooter turns out to be Latrell Macdonald, a black young man and the son of friends of Titus’. The victim is Jeff Spearman, a beloved (white) geography teacher. Before Latrell reaches the bottom of the school’s steps, two white deputies shoot him.

Checking Spearman’s phone and later his home, Titus and his team discover that the beloved teacher was a pedophile and murderer and had used Latrell in some of his activities. Another masked man was also involved.

Photo after photo shows young children being abused or in life-threatening situations. Using backgrounds in the photos, Titus identifies where the children were held. When he investigates the area, he discovers bodies and bones. All young children not reported missing in Charon County.

In the past 15 years, there have only been two murders in the county: one was solved in 15 minutes with a confession; the other remains unsolved. Now in less than a day there have been two public murders and a rising number of hidden bodies uncovered as the investigation unfolds.

The community quickly splits along racial lines: a black suspect shoots a white teacher; two white deputies shoot a black suspect before an investigation can happen. Young black children have been abused and murdered. In the horror of the situation and the urgent need for answers, the community grabs at simple sound bites.

“The soil of Charon County, like most towns and counties in the South, was sown with generations of tears. They were places where violence and mayhem were celebrated as the pillars of a pioneering spirit every Founders’ Day in the county square.”

Titus grew up in Charon County. He’d left to work with the FBI. A traumatic encounter with a suspect left him scarred physically and emotionally.

When the last Charon County sheriff was run over by a logging truck, Titus decided to run in the special election to fill the post. He won. His victory brings with it plenty of burdens: a black community that expects much from him and a white community that resents and distrusts him.

In addition, he inherits a department with poorly trained staff. Some  deputies have spent most of their careers serving a corrupt sheriff. They have no respect for their new boss.

“The moment he announced his candidacy he had made a choice to live in a no-man’s-land between people who believed in him, people who hated him because of his skin color, and people who believed he was a traitor to his race.”

Titus faces all the challenges of a small Southern county run by the wealthy Cunningham family, who own the county’s two largest companies, a flag factory and a seafood processing plant. The two companies are the county’s largest employers. The Cunninghams expect their wishes to be obeyed.

The Black community, led by Jamal Addison, has its expectations, too. They want Titus to represent their interests.

Author S. A. Cosby not only writes vividly, he puts his protagonist in increasingly impossible situations. The suspense keeps building.

Titus has relied on order and discipline to ward off chaos in his life from the death of his mother when he was 13 to the two years his father spent drinking away his grief to the crimes he fought while in the FBI.

But now, chaos comes crashing in on his county from all sides.

ALL THE SINNERS BLEED was nominated for a 2024 Edgar Award for Best Novel.

The Author: S. A. (Shawn Andre) Cosby (1973 – )

Southern noir crime fiction writer S. A. Cosby has published four novels: MY DARKEST PRAYER (2019), BLACKTOP WASTELAND (2020), RAZORBLADE TEARS (2021) and ALL THE SINNERS BLEED (2023).

RAZORBLADE TEARS was named on more than 20 best-of-the-years, won the ITW Thriller Award for best Hardcover Novel and was recommended by former President Barak Obama as well as winner a 2022 Anthony Award for Best Novel. BLACKTOP WASTELAND won the 2021 Anthony Award for Best Hardcover Novel.

Both BLACKTOP WASTELAND and RAZORBLADE TEARS have been optioned for films.

Cosby is from southeastern Virginia.





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