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ALL THE SINNERS BLEED by S. A. Cosby: Book Review

All The Sinners Bleed is one of this year’s best mysteries, hands down.  The plot is believable, the characters are realistic, and the writing is lyrical.

Charon County, Virginia has a new sheriff.  After serving with the FBI for several years, Titus Crown has returned home.  Appalled by the strong segregationist feelings in the county as well as the policies of the racist sheriff who has controlled the country for years, Titus runs for the office and wins.  He’s now the first Black sheriff in Charon’s history.

Titus is still dealing with a number of issues beyond those connected to his office, one that took place years ago and two that are current.  The first is the death of his mother, who died a painful death when Titus was still a child.  More recently he’s been dealing with a traumatic incident that took place when he and other federal agents were called to a compound in Northern Indiana, and in addition he’s in a relationship with a local woman whom he feels he should love but just can’t quite make that happen.

Then he gets the call that every police officer dreads, “There’s an active shooter at the high school.”  As the students rush out of the building, one of the girls tells Titus that a teacher has been shot.  Latrell Macdonald, the son of one of Titus’ friends, comes out of the building, holding a .30-30 rifle.  Ignoring Titus’ command to put his rifle down, Macdonald continues to come closer to the sheriff and his men until a riot gun and a Smith and Wesson end the standoff.

The murder of Jeffrey Spearman, everyone’s favorite teacher, seems inexplicable at first.  He had taught at the high school for decades, was coach of the debate team, sponsor of the drama club, and the Rotary Club’s Teacher of the Year award the previous year.  But when Crown looks into the teacher’s phone, everything changes.   It’s full of child pornography and, even worse, scenes of child murders.  There are photos of Spearman, Latrell, and a masked third man killing Black children.  Now that Spearman and Latrell are dead, Titus must find the third man and also locate the bodies of the dead children.

Since Spearman was white and Latrell was Black, the murder brings angry feelings between the town’s Black and white citizens to a boiling point.  If the two deaths weren’t enough, Charon County is readying for its biggest event, the Fall Fest, this year including a march by the Sons of the Confederacy and a protest by members of a local Black church.

S. A. Cosby’s novel touches on issues that our country faces today–racial and child endangerment among them.  It’s a frightening look into problems that sadly are just as relevant today as they’ve been throughout our history.  Cosby’s writing illuminates these concerns in language that will touch the reader’s heart.

You can learn more about the author at various sites on the web, and many interviews featuring him are available on YouTube.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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