This is the first crime thriller I’ve ever put in the Top Ten, but I got hooked on S.A. Cosby this year. His books are crackling page-turners filled with similes and energy. And, o yes, violence. There’s a lot of that, too.
Cosby attracted my attention because he’s a Virginia native and aspires to the ranks of Southern Gothic greats like Flannery O’Connor. But he also has a keen eye on what’s happening around him in the rural South–how issues of class, race, and sex can so easily curdle into something toxic.
Razorblade Tears brings together two avenging fathers, one white and one Black, whose sons have been murdered. It’s an uncomfortable partnership that Cosby uses to illuminating effect. As I wrote in my review earlier this year:
Partners of convenience are no stranger to this genre, but Buddy Lee and Ike are fighting their own internalized racism, homophobia, and the ghosts of their violent pasts as much as they are the well-heeled villain and his biker gang henchmen. The men become more human even as their actions become more callous and vengeful. And they lay bare the ways the world is changing around them even as some things stay deeply the same.
S.A. Cosby’s first novel, My Darkest Prayer, has just been rereleased. Blacktop Wasteland, his second, could have made this list as well. And another book is on the way in 2023. I have a feeling Cosby’s stock is on the rise.
#5 – Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv
#6 – Fatal by Kimberly Johnson
#7 – Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
#8 – Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell
#9 – A Place Like Mississippi by W. Ralph Eubanks
#10 – Shaking the Gates of Hell by John Archibald