Cosby’s drive to expand the chorus of voices representing the South is on full display in his follow-up, Razorblade Tears ... The novel’s DNA may seem familiar to readers of Blacktop Wasteland or Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series, but its composition feels utterly unique, as if the elements of one’s waking life were scrambled in a dream ... Cosby wisely tweaks the formula, mixing in biting humor and frank confrontations about race and sexuality amid the mayhem — and making Razorblade Tears a more emotionally raw affair than Blacktop Wasteland, which balanced its violence with some nifty car chases. While the automobiles of choice here are pickup trucks of various vintages, it’s rage that drives these characters in their statewide hunt for clues to their sons’ murders ... As interesting as these characters may be, where Cosby excels is in revealing a broader picture of the New South ... Cosby presents them without judgment or artifice, placing the fathers’ prejudices, hang-ups and deep-seated rage in stark relief ... Cosby has an unnerving ability to describe what fists, knives, guns and assorted garden implements can do to the human body, which may make the violence more vivid than some readers can abide. Riding shotgun with the violence, though, is also great beauty — in descriptions of the grief of a community, in the fathers’ stirring awareness of the true meaning of love and even in Cosby’s reverence for the vibrant natural world ... The contradictions in Razorblade Tears suggest the deeper moral ambiguity in this and all vigilante narratives. Unlike another Shakespearean character, who famously said revenge is a dish best served cold, these Southern fathers are well aware of the paradoxes of their mission, even as they are compelled to finish it in the name of justice for their boys.
Cosby’s prose is vibrant and inventive, his action exuberant and relentless ... As with Blacktop Wasteland, you may come for the setup, but you’ll stay for the storytelling. Cosby writes in a spirit of generous abundance and gleeful abandon and, unlike a lot of noir writers, he doesn’t shy from operatic emotion...Cosby himself is fearless in concocting colorful similes in the grand tradition of go-for-baroque pulp ... Over the top, sure, but there’s no way your mind will not recall this image the next time you’re at a wine bar or walking the boardwalk in Ocean City ... More important, the book moves. It thrums. Razorblade Tears practically taunts you every time you try to put it down ... The ride isn’t seamless. When you’re as exuberant with language as Cosby is, not every turn of phrase is going to land, though his hit rate is impressively high. And the novel’s brazenly cinematic finale — you might even call it Bruckheimeresque — snaps together with a tidy efficiency that belies the emotional messiness of the preceding tale ... Cosby excels when presenting the struggles of flawed characters as they wrestle with moral failings and haunting regrets ... Isiah and Derek, though, never come into focus as fully imagined people, which is especially notable given how successful Cosby is at breathing life into everyone else. The novel’s side trips into the sons’ milieu — including a gay bar called Garland’s, named for Judy — are the least sure-footed scenes in the book ... by the novel’s end, despite the occasional bumps, I bet you’ll be eager for more. This is how crime writers establish a following: by priming readers to get excited about whatever’s coming next. If that’s the true measure of making a name for yourself, then Cosby’s already there.
... a double-barreled action saga that brings to mind the mayhem of early Dashiell Hammett and the bedlam of vintage Sam Peckinpah. Leavening the violence is the salty banter of two bereaved fathers who turn out to be, for better and worse, much more alike than they suspected.
... Cosby has crossed Elmore Leonard with Walter Mosley to produce the thrill ride of the summer. Razorblade Tears’ is a Dodge Super Bee Six-Pack blasting down an empty country road at twilight with the windows rolled down and 'Free Bird’' cranking from the 8-track ... One of the problems with genre fiction, particularly crimes and mysteries, is that the stories don’t always live up to the promise of their titles. That’s not an issue with Cosby. Razorblade Tears’ and its predecessor, Blacktop Wasteland,’ more than fulfill the dark malevolence of their titles. They also demonstrate Cosby’s mastery of Leonard’s famous First Rule of Crime Writing: Cut out the parts that readers skip. Razorblade and Blacktop’ dispense with long-winded exposition and embroidered sunsets; they are stripped-down muscle cars built to run only one way, a wide open throttle ... While his fast-paced prose earns favorable comparisons to Leonard, it’s his Walter Mosley-like social conscience that makes Cosby something more than a genre writer ... Cosby is adept at bringing characters to life with minimal exposition. Ike and Buddy Lee are guys you want to root for despite their many flaws. Cosby devotees may be somewhat disappointed by a High Noon’-style showdown that seems to echo the finale from Blacktop Wasteland.’’ But that’s a quibble, like complaining about the bug splatters on your Super Bee’s windshield as the tach winds past 7,000. Razorblade Tears’ is an instant classic.
An action-packed story that starts strong and accelerates, Razorblade Tears also is an insightful story about racism, homophobia, parenting, classism, squandered chances and seized opportunities ... Cosby imbues Razorblade Tears with lyrical writing, offset with violence fitting the story, and even a reference to Greek mythology. While the brisk plot revolves around the hunt for the killers, Razorblade Tears is more character driven ... the best of thought-provoking fiction, character studies and hard-charging action.
Once in a while...a book grabs me by the shirt, gets up in my face and says, 'Let’s ride.' Razorblade Tears is one of those, and what a ride it is. I sat down in my comfy chair, cracked it open and didn’t get up until I’d finished it five hours later, holding my breath most of the way—except when I was laughing out loud ... Make no mistake, this book brims with violence. If you do not want to read about the slinging of blood, the firing of many guns and the non-recommended uses of lawn care implements, read elsewhere ... Cosby can create a vivid character sketch in a few lines and knows how to counter the darkest situations with humor ... his voice is his own, his characters engaging and surprising, his narrative skill impressive.
Reading Razorblade Tears is a visceral full-body experience, a sharp jolt to the heart, and a treat for the senses. S. A. Cosby's moody southern thriller marries the skillful action and plotting of Lee Child with the atmosphere and insight of Attica Locke ... Cosby's characters are specific and vividly rendered, and he paints a determinedly bleak yet thoroughly compelling picture of their plight ... Cosby's sharp characterization and evocative prose make the tension between them as palpable as their grief ... With volatile tempers, guts full of guilt, and hearts full of regret, they rack up bodies as a matter of course. It's bloody. It's graphic. And it fits. Even though action is vital to this story, it doesn't take precedence. With writing that's as precise and emotionally engaging as it is cinematic, character and relationships reign supreme ... Still, some of Cosby's other choices render this novel something short of a triumph. Queer people are central to the investigation and the story, but not a one has a particularly strong, fully realized voice of their own. Two are dead, and another is deeply disappointing. Cosby also has straight people talking about LGBTQ marginalization in conversations that sometimes sound preachy rather than organic. It's an jarring juxtaposition — having straight characters gain this growing awareness of and sensitivity to discrimination when the queer characters are marginalized in the narrative ... These aspects of the story are discordant notes in an otherwise elegant composition. And yet even with those issues, Razorblade Tears is still addictive, arresting entertainment. S.A. Cosby might be a miracle worker. As uneasy as I was, he made me root for the redemption of two men with homophobia and bloody revenge in their hearts. Throughout, I was never anything less than absorbed and on their side. Cosby's high-octane drama cements his ascension as a prince of the literary action thriller.
... this is a great book ... I enjoyed the prose immensely, and the author’s command of dialogue is evident ... The book felt, to me, like a grittier and more serious Joe R. Landsdale/Hap & Leonard novel. The writing is superb, and the story is tight. There is a strong message on acceptance and personal evolution, but that message does not drown out the story―and storytelling is where Cosby excels. I think Razorblade Tears is going to be a hit this year, the novel deserves acclaim. I recommend buying this one.
... another powerful thriller ... As a character, Ike is an oddity. Although he’s a person of color who has endured lifelong prejudice, he can’t seem to put himself in the shoes of a gay person who likely would also have endured bigotry. It’s the ultimate irony, and one the author exploits to great effect ... primarily crime fiction with a mystery at its core and a big reveal at the end. The action sequences come fast and close together and pulse with a visceral streak that will leave readers holding their breath until the final gunshot rings out ... it's an epic.
Like Leonard and the other great practitioners of the genre, Cosby gives us characters so real they practically become close acquaintances, and we can hear their voices anytime we feel like it ... Ike is a beautifully wrought character ... The other apt comparison to Elmore Leonard is in the writing. Cosby is plainly nuts about the American language, and the novel absolutely sings with it ... Cosby can turn cliches into something more original ... The only minimally false notes in this wise and fierce entertainment are a few times when Ike is explaining to Buddy what it’s like to be Black in America, and he speaks in coherent little essays. He makes perfect sense, but he sounds more like a CNN commentator than an ex-con ... dead-on social commentary in a throwaway line, the kind of gem the novel is full of.
... a highly entertaining and heart-pounding mystery/thriller ... Smoothy pairing the homespun language with vibrant and energetic action, the pages almost turn themselves. Cosby is unafraid to tackle subjects that other authors tend to avoid ... The road to revenge is littered with numerous dead bodies, violent shootouts and a few unbelievable outcomes, which help make the new novel so enjoyable ... S. A. Cosby seems well on his way to becoming the kind of mystery author whose next books are eagerly anticipated.
... stunningly poignant and brutally profound ... Cosby gives readers a unique take on a revenge narrative, one propelled by furious action and two incredibly authentic and compelling main characters ... While almost every encounter Ike and Buddy have with others during their investigation erupts in violence (their 'muscle memory' as cons takes over), Cosby has structured each of these confrontations to reveal Ike and Buddy's breathtaking sorrow and mind-numbing regrets. Throughout the novel, Cosby's cinematic prose brilliantly balances Ike and Buddy's brutality with their grief-filled moments and memories that are tender and heartbreaking.
... a thrilling journey of self-discovery and social interrogation ... a mission-driven novel that finds Cosby directly deconstructing the cultural plague of homophobia, both in larger society and in the Black community ... Razorblade Tears also offers understated yet powerful commentary about America’s racial problem. Many people, from all points on the political spectrum, reduce racism to moments of interpersonal conflict and unequal access. But as Cosby demonstrates throughout the book, racism also festers in the nuances and subtexts. This can especially be seen through the adroit and well-voiced conversations between Ike and Buddy Lee, who don’t like each other but are forced to work together ... Cosby admits that grappling with such serious issues caused anxiety during the writing process ... Cosby handles such material with great care ... Razorblade Tears’ commitment to addressing serious social issues is balanced by temperate pacing and a consistent rhythmic pulse that reflect the energy of rural Southern life.
Buckets of blood are spilled in Razorblade Tears, but in a volume that's proportional to the amount of soul-searching going on and the number of jokes being cracked. That Ike is no sufferer of fools and Buddy Lee is an unfiltered wild card sets up an odd-couple dynamic that Cosby works like a master comic, and his specialization in insults...is on display throughout the novel. The humor abets the surprise-strewn story ... S.A. Cosby's terrific follow-up to Blacktop Wasteland is another rustic noir centered on a Black man with a checkered past who feels forced to jeopardize his straight-arrow status.
... a powerful blend of pulsing action, sensitive and subtle character interaction, and uncompromising but highly nuanced reflection on racism and homophobia ... Cosby’s tale generates its authority from confronting moral ambiguity head-on ... Few novels marry tough and tender, head-banging and coming-of-age, as seamlessly as this one does, but that’s no surprise from a supremely talented writer who keeps getting better.
In this strong crime novel...[t]he relentless pace and at times brutal action stand out, but more memorable are the richly developed characters of Ike and Buddy Lee. Along the way, the book provides a nuanced take on contemporary race and LGBTQ issues of a type not commonly found in crime fiction. Chalk up another winner to Cosby.
A lean, mean crime story ... Fast on its feet, by turns lethal and tender ... This is a bloody good yarn with two compelling antiheroes you’ll root for from the start, and not only because their enemies, or at least some of them, belong to a White nationalist biker club with murderous ways of its own. Lean and mean, this is crime fiction with a chip on its shoulder.