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Chilling truths

Cover of All the Sinners Bleed
A review of All the Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby

When you set a book in place named Charon County, you’d better be prepared to go to some dark places. S. A. Cosby’s latest thriller, All the Sinners Bleed, does not disappoint in that respect. Mixing strong characterizations and engrossing action with stories rooted in America’s racial reckoning, Cosby again proves why he’s become a must-read among crime readers.

The sleepy rural county in southeast Virginia has only had a couple of murders in the past few decades, but like most places in America, and particularly in the South, the darkest of secrets lurk just under the surface. No one knows that better than Titus Crown, former FBI officer, Charon native son and its first Black sheriff. On the one-year anniversary of Titus’s election, a Black student walks into Charon’s high school, shoots the school’s beloved geography teacher and in turn is gunned down before the whole student body on the front steps of the school by one of Titus’s deputies—a white deputy. The shootings, Titus knows, are enough to exacerbate simmering racial tensions in Charon, but the motives behind the gunman’s killing reveals a monstrous crime that runs through the heart of Charon society. As Titus digs deeper and uncovers more long-forgotten bodies, fresh ones are added, killed in torturous methods and marked with bizarre religious allusions. This lone wolf, as Titus comes to think of him, circles about Titus and the community, using terror to rip open the divisions already existing in Charon. Titus is haunted by his own demons from his time as an FBI agent, rifts that have made his return to Charon and his family fraught with its own set of difficulties. But having faced down evil once before, is it in him to take on another monster, particularly when that monster starts to strike uncomfortably close to home?

It’s worth mentioning the excellent audio version, as Adam Lazarre-White’s narration nails both the menace and wry humor of Cosby’s fine dialog. I don’t know if southeastern Virginians speak or sound like this, but it’s definitely a pleasure to listen to, a fact borne out by the production’s Audie nominiation for best audiobook of the year. All the Sinners Bleed contains descriptions of off-stage violence against children and an animal, some disturbing imagery of homicide victims and a few instances of racial slurs. Fans of smart, literary crime fiction will want to have Cosby on their to-be-read list; mainstream fiction readers who don’t want to commit to a crime series may also want to take a look.  


Mar 13, 2024