Nobody captures underlying racial tension in the contemporary south, wrapped in a crime thriller, as well as S.A. Cosby. His leads–this is Cosby’s fourth in a series of unconnected novels taking place in rural Virginia–are invariably upstanding Black men facing entrenched, and typically barely concealed, white hostility.
Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in a coastal Virginia community. His predecessor was a Black-beating, omnipotent, Old School sheriff who barely lost to Titus in the last election. Crown faces underlying bigotry from the town’s whites and progressive Blacks see Crown as having sold out to an untrustworthy police force. In the opening pages an active shooter is in the local high school. There is, in subsequent scenes, a march by Confederate sympathizers to the statue in the middle of town commemorating rebel war heroes, an outspoken pastor of a local Black Church planning a countermarch, a serial killer, and a child porn ring. Titus Crown’s allegiances to family, community, law, and justice are yanking him in impossible contortions.
All the Sinners Bleed is a page turner, but also tries to incorporate too many current events in one book. Cosby holds it together, but fewer yanks on a single sheriff in such a short period would have still gotten the point across and felt closer to reality.