S.A. Cosby’s All the Sinners Bleed is at once a gripping character study and a darkly compelling example of Southern noir. As in his previous critically acclaimed novels (My Darkest Prayer, Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears), Cosby delves into the history, heart and hypocrisy of his home state of Virginia with anger and grace.
Titus Crown has an impressive resume: star quarterback of his state championship-winning high-school football team; top of his class at the University of Virginia and Columbia; standout FBI agent for 12 years. In 2016, he was elected the first-ever Black sheriff of Charon County, Virginia, where he grew up. It’s an experience he describes as being similar to living “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.”
Alas, the one-year anniversary of Titus’ election is marked not by celebration but by fear and grief, thanks to a shooting at the local high school. A young Black man named Latrell kills Mr. Spearman, a beloved white teacher. After a tense standoff, Latrell is dead, too, shot by Titus’ deputies.
Soon Titus learns that this shocking and seemingly inexplicable event is the tip of a truly horrifying iceberg. He was already well aware that “the ability of one human to visit depravity upon another was boundless as the sea and as varied as there were grains of sand on a beach,” and that belief holds true: Over the course of his investigation into the shooting at the school, Titus discovers that a serial killer who preys on Black children has been living among the close-knit Charon County community for years.
As he and his deputies race to catch the killer, Titus must also contend with neo-Confederates determined to march through Charon’s annual Fall Fest, persistent political pressure and his own personal struggles. Unresolved trauma and uneasy relationships with his father and brother peck away at Titus’ equanimity as he strives to protect the citizens of Charon County while reckoning with the pain of his past.
All the Sinners Bleed is a nerve-jangling, thought-provoking, often heartbreaking read, but also one that reminds readers “there was beauty in the world . . . if you knew where to look. It was there if you were brave enough or foolish enough to seek it.”