All the Sinners Bleed continues S. A. Cosby’s smooth onslaught against the complacent crime fiction genre, determined to confront casual fans and devoted fanatics of the genre with honest and compelling stories told from perspectives that have too long been overlooked, ignored, denied, suppressed, and/or forgotten. The fact that he does it all with unprecedented talent and a pure heart makes it all the more impressive. Like one of his most famous champions, Stephen King, S. A. Cosby is never interested in the writing the same book twice. All The Sinners Bleed is his fourth novel—and it is completely different from each of the three that preceded it. This time out, Cosby has crafted a blend of the traditional police procedural with a darker serial killer thread, resulting in a work that feels both familiar and cutting edge, simultaneously.

Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff of Charon County, Virginia, a small-town community very much rooted in the South with all the baggage such a location carries. Astute readers will immediately recognize that Charon is the name of the ferryman who delivers the dead to the Underworld in Greek myth—this is no accident on Cosby’s part. It is worth noting here that S. A. Cosby is always working on multiple levels, with every word he places on the page and every strategic decision he makes throughout his work—which is why his novels have such a high rate of re-read-ability. Cosby is an author who crafts meaningful metaphors that resonate with every reader and sets up similes that withstand scrutinization to expose revelation.

One year—to the day—of his election, Titus finds himself at the scene of a school shooting with both a teacher and the gun-wielding student dead—and a whole community in upheaval. Little does he know, but this tragic act will lead Titus to uncover the truth a serial killer who has been plying his trade under everyone’s noses for years. The ensuing investigation takes Titus to the doorstep of a local church that just happens to have a controversial reputation around town. Meanwhile, as if his hands aren’t already full with all of this, rumblings of a march to celebrate the county’s Confederate past by a violent alt-right hate group is stressing things to a breaking point.

Just from this synopsis alone, readers will know this is a very dark book. No S. A. Cosby work is going to be a walk in the park, but here Cosby is pulling no punches in terms of the topics covered. A non-exhaustive list of things that factor into the plot of All the Sinners Bleed include: drugs, child pornography, economic disparity, toxic masculinity, questionable work ethics, privilege, race, and religion. There are few crime writers who are as fearless as S. A. Cosby in their willingness to travel to the darkest places in the soul in search of answers and redemption. Cosby has the ability to juxtapose hope and despair in such a way that acknowledges the power of both emotions without succumbing to sugar-coated platitudes or overwhelming negativity. A lesser writer would invariably fall on one side or the other of that spectrum.

All the Sinners Bleed comes to a powerful close and certainly more than a few readers—like myself—will need tissues to wipe away the resulting tears. The Southern Gothic tradition is in good hands with S. A. Cosby—that unique fusion of setting, character, and cathartic bloodletting. Just four novels in and S. A. Cosby has proven himself the gold-standard among a wealth of really excellent writers—both in crime fiction and well beyond.

PRE-ORDER LINKS: All The Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby

Disclaimer: An print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.