Truncated to a logline, you might think “Razorblade Tears” is your standard revenge fantasy thriller about two bereaved fathers from a small town in Virginia who unite to hunt down the men who killed their sons.
But this is no “Death Wish” retread about middle-age pacifists turned apex predators by the murder of their loved ones. The two fathers at the centre of S.A. Cosby’s second novel, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, are morally complex and deeply flawed; ostensibly bad men whose lives have been pockmarked by violence and prison sentences. Their sons, happily married to each other, were shot execution-style outside an upmarket wine store on their anniversary, and the police aren’t anywhere close to solving it.
Ike and Buddy Lee are compelled by grief and guilt to take matters into their own hands. It’s with wrenching hindsight they realise how much they loved their sons, despite their undisguised homophobia driving a wedge between them.
Ike and Buddy Lee were terrible fathers, and they know their bloody quest will do nothing to quash their remorse. But multiple corpses, and dozens of spent shell casings later, they know there’s nowhere off this road. They’ll need to see it through to the end.
Their relationship is interesting. The wages of sin, guilt and vengeance weigh heavily, and their alliance is complicated by their race; Ike is black, and Buddy Lee is white, and racist. Their shared desire for retribution smooths these prejudices, shaped and ingrained by the attitudes and views of the people around whom they spent their formative years.
“Razorblade Tears” is a powerhouse of a novel, one of the best of the year. It’s dark, brutal and unsparingly violent. S.A. Cosby knows the evil that men do, to themselves and to others. He’s not afraid to guide readers into that darkness. What might be a routine revenge thriller in other hands is elevated by an emotional depth that staggers. Cosby is the real deal. He’s a writer I’ll follow to hell and back.
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 13th July 2021