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All the Sinners Bleed


All the Sinners Bleed

I have been a fan of S. A. Cosby’s work right from the start. His award-winning novels, BLACKTOP WASTELAND and RAZORBLADE TEARS, were intense reads. However, they did not prepare me for what is presented in his latest effort, ALL THE SINNERS BLEED.

This juggernaut of a thriller is meticulously written in Cosby’s unique voice and features the hunt for a serial killer that is on par with the best work of Thomas Harris. What makes this book more than just a “serial killer” novel are the layers of complexity that Cosby adds to the plot. This is a story about race and racial hatred, and it boldly seeks to uncover the evil that lurks under the masks that our fellow citizens may be wearing. It will make you realize that you can never truly know anyone.

"ALL THE SINNERS BLEED excited and enthralled me so much that I did not want it to end. It will be nearly impossible for me to forget this darkly memorable literary work, which easily is one of my favorite books of 2023."

When it comes to evil, Cosby uses a quote from literary giant Joseph Conrad: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” Titus Crown, the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Virginia, can attest to this. But Titus himself is not prepared for the depravity and evil against other human beings that he will witness before this story is over. In fact, he may never have a restful night’s sleep again.

Titus knows that the foundation on which Charon County is built is one of love and hate, blood and tears, violence and mayhem. When he is called to an incident that is very atypical for this small town, his own beliefs will be firmly put to the test. There is a report of an active shooter at the local high school, and Titus and his department are on their way there. They find a young man named Latrell Macdonald walking out of the building holding an automatic weapon with blood on him. Titus knows him well as he is the son of someone he grew up with. He is unable to talk Latrell down, who spouts some threatening and very biblical-sounding rhetoric before two of Titus’ deputies shoot and kill him.

The only other victim is Jeff Spearman, a former teacher of Latrell’s and longtime stalwart at the school, who was voted Teacher of the Year a handful of times. The investigation that Titus leads will show that there was something else going on that was far darker. When he learns that Spearman may not have been the straight arrow everyone believed him to be, he digs further. What will be uncovered, initially on his phone and then later in his home, are some of the most depraved acts that Titus or anyone on his force has ever seen.

Spearman and a couple of others, one of whom was Latrell himself, were involved in the kidnapping, torture and brutal murder of many Black children. I respect that Cosby does not feel the need to take the reader all the way there and experience what Titus is witnessing. This is done in much the same way as a clever horror film director who realizes that the mere suggestion of terror is much more effective than showing blood and guts on the screen.

When the department and forensics team are led to a tree in the woods, they begin digging up the remains of several youngsters. Forensics work as quickly as they can to identify them so that Titus can notify their families. These victims came from all over, not just Charon County, and may have been placed there over several years.

What troubles Titus the most is that a third perpetrator seen only on camera wearing a wolf mask is still out there. This final piece in the serial-killing trifecta may be the most evil of them all and taunts both Titus and the residents of Charon County with his continued murderous works of evil. There are not only religious ties to this case but also historical and personal ones that will shake the town to its core.

ALL THE SINNERS BLEED excited and enthralled me so much that I did not want it to end. It will be nearly impossible for me to forget this darkly memorable literary work, which easily is one of my favorite books of 2023.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 16, 2023

All the Sinners Bleed
by S. A. Cosby

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250831911
  • ISBN-13: 9781250831910