Review: Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby
I went into this with very high expectations, since I absolutely loved Blacktop Wasteland (the debut thriller by S.A. Cosby that I read earlier this year and just tore through in one sitting because I could not bring myself to put it down). This book doesn't quite live up to those heights for me, but I still found it quite good - though I won't go so far as to say it was enjoyable.
This is the story of Isaac Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, two men who have nothing in common except for both being ex-convicts and being the fathers of sons who were murdered in what, at first, appears to be an anti-gay hate crime. The police investigation into their deaths has stalled out, and so Buddy Lee and Ike join forces to track down who killed their sons (their sons were married and they have a granddaughter in common, which is how these two people who have literally nothing in common and hate each other at first sight).
The things that S.A. Cosby did really well in Blacktop Wasteland are here as well - the sense of pacing, the gripping nature of the plot, the fact that none of the characters have plot armour and the decisions that the characters make have high stakes and emotional consequences that they are actually forced to own up to and pay. He's also very good at giving voice to the conflicting desires and morality and justifications inside the minds of characters whose moral compasses are a bit more complicated and nuanced than you get usually in revenge fiction; although I would also be interested to see if Cosby's ability to craft such nuanced, empathetic, complex characters extends beyond anti-heroes (since in this book all the characters who aren't the central anti-heroes do, unfortunately, fall a bit flat).
I do think Cosby sets his sights a bit too broadly on this book - the conspiracy that the fathers end up unwinding, because we spend so little time with the perpetrators of it, feels far-fetched and the unwinding of it is a bit sloppy, and doesn't fit in very smoothly with the emotional climaxes of the novel. The sprawl of characters beyond the central two does also mean that when we take turns in the villains' heads, their internal monologues and POVs end up blending together - they weren't as differentiated as the central personalities.
All told, this was a good book, if I didn't find the pieces of it or the authorial craft of it as strong as I did the first of his I read. I recommend it if you want a good, strong revenge-slash-mob thriller, although be warned - the subject matter is very dark and it is very violent, nor does it shy away from gore, so if you don't love torture being a not insignificant plot-mover maybe give this one a pass.