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All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby

All The Sinners BleedAll The Sinners Bleed
by S.A. Cosby
Rating: ★★★★★
Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Genre: mystery: golden age (1920-1949)
Pages: 341
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

A Black sheriff. A serial killer. A small town ready to combust.

Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Virginia. In recent decades, Charon has had only two murders. After years of working as an FBI agent, Titus knows better than anyone that while his hometown might seem like a land of moonshine, cornbread, and honeysuckle, secrets always fester under the surface.

Then a year to the day after Titus’s election, a school teacher is killed by a former student and the student is fatally shot by Titus’s deputies. Those festering secrets are now out in the open and ready to tear the town apart.

As Titus investigates the shootings, he unearths terrible crimes and a serial killer who has been hiding in plain sight, haunting the dirt lanes and woodland clearings of Charon. With the killer’s possible connections to a local church and the town’s harrowing history weighing on him, Titus projects confidence about closing the case while concealing a painful secret from his own past. At the same time, he also has to contend with a far-right group that wants to hold a parade in celebration of the town’s Confederate history.

Powerful and unforgettable, All the Sinners Bleed confirms S. A. Cosby as “one of the most muscular, distinctive, grab-you-by-both-ears voices in American crime fiction” (The Washington Post).

I am certain that this book will end up on my top ten list for 2024. I previously read Razorblade Tears, which I really enjoyed, but this one was gobsmacking. Holy Hannah, Cosby can write, you guys. This is a near perfect – in my opinion – piece of crime fiction.

I’m not going to reiterate the plot summary, which you can read for yourself, but this is a dark book. Titus Crown is a wonderful character – articulate and thoughtful. He grew up in a small town in Virginia, where the Civil War is barely in the rear view mirror, and where the local the local racist fringe wears it’s “history” like a badge of honor. Cosby definitely has something to say – about history, especially in the South, about the present, where the history is so close to the surface that we can’t even call it buried – and about religion. Crown is a man who has no patience for a religion that has abused him and his people a whole lot more than it has succored them.

Later, after his mother was in the ground, he realized the Word was just as corrupt as the men who read it. Old Testament, New Testament, it was just words with a little w, written by zealots as PR for their new cult founded in the memory of a dead carpenter.

Religious trauma & racism run deep in Charon County, and in the life of Titus Crown.

“Flannery O’Connor said the South is Christ-haunted. It’s haunted, all right. By the hypocrisy of Christianity. All these churches, all these Bibles, but it’s places just like Charon where the poor are ostracized. Where girls are called whores if they report a rape. Where I can’t go to the Watering Hole without wondering if the bartender done spit in my drink. People say this kind of thing doesn’t happen in a place like Charon. Darlene, this kind of thing is what makes places like Charon run. It’s the rock upon which this temple is built,” Titus said. He tossed back the rest of his drink and stomped into the kitchen.

This is Southern Gothic, written by a black author who has a total command of his subject. It’s a mystery, yes, but it’s a lot more than that, too. I am a huge proponent of the concept that there is no better way to understand a place or a time than to read crime fiction that was contemporary at the time it was written. Crime authors are excavators and archeologists – they perform ethnography of a place, getting below the surface. Cosby does just that, here.

It occurred to him no place was more confused by its past or more terrified of the future than the South.

All the Sinners Bleed is not a book for the faint of heart, or for the person who needs a trigger warning. There is nothing in this book that isn’t triggering. But it’s worth the read, if you have the stomach for it. And I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Change and more change

I’ve had a long break from blogging, at least in part because I’ve been handling a major life change – probably my last significant life change before I shuffle off this mortal coil, unless my husband decides to up and leave me for a sports car and a younger woman. Fingers crossed THAT doesn’t happen.

Anyway, about 5 years ago, I decided that I really needed an exit plan from my very stressful job as a criminal prosecutor handling primarily child abuse cases. I have never really talked about my work online, because I was in a public position and, also, because my job was often desperately sad. It was important, meaningful and I had a great career, but my cases were not the sort of thing that would be appropriate to share.

I semi-retired on July 3. I am still working in a legal job, but it is a very chill, part-time, contract and almost exclusively working from home position that doesn’t involve the same type of cases that I was handling before. I’m only in a courtroom one day a week, and that day is not Monday. I’m still becoming accustomed to not dragging myself out of bed five mornings a week so I can get into an office by 8:00 a.m.

Today, I slept in until 8:00 a.m.

I’ve been looking forward to, and planning intensively for, retirement for the last 5 years because I really wanted to retire early – my pension starts on my 60th birthday, which is about 30 months away. I knew that I couldn’t stay in my job that long. My stress level was through the roof, and my blood pressure was right there with it.

I’m still getting used to the change. I feel guilty if I don’t do something to productive every day. I feel like I should be working, even though my current gig doesn’t demand more than about 18 hours a week (and that’s what they pay me for, as well). I’m reading less than I expected, although I am reading a lot, because it feels so weird to spend my morning with my nose in a book. But I am also loving the ability to take off mid-week on a short trip, making a pot of soup on Wednesday morning, and being able to do all of my errands during the time that other people are in an office.

I have thought long and hard about what to do with this blog, and I’m going to stick with it for at least a year. If I find myself in a position where I don’t blog for 6 months again, I will probably move on with other projects. But I’d like to invest more time and energy into it as I figure out who I am going to be as a (semi-) retired person!