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Book Review: S.A. Cosby's 'Razorblade Tears' Is A First-Class Buddy (And Bloody) Novel

Looking for a blood-and-guts crime novel? Book reviewer Suzanne Perez wasn’t, but she loved this one anyway.

This week’s book is not for the faint-hearted. But it has tons of heart.

Razorblade Tears is a moody revenge thriller by S.A. Cosby, an author who burst onto the literary scene not long ago with his 2020 novel, “Blacktop Wasteland.” That one was named a New York Times notable book of the year and is being developed for the big screen.

This one is a crime story about two bereaved fathers who set out to avenge their sons’ deaths. Ike Randolph is Black. Buddy Lee Jenkins is white. Both are ex-convicts who struggled with their sons’ homosexuality.

But when the young men are murdered together, shot in their faces outside a wine store on their anniversary, Ike and Buddy Lee set out to find their sons’ killers and exact their own brand of justice.

“This is who I am. I can’t change,” Ike tells Buddy Lee. “I don’t want to, really. But for once I’m gonna put this devil inside me to good use.”

Be warned: This is a violent novel with Kill Bill-level blood and guts. Not my usual fare, but it came highly recommended by a number of reliable sources because it’s also a dysfunctional family drama. And I do love those.

Cosby, who hails from Richmond, Virginia, recently told The Guardian newspaper that “the holy trinity of southern fiction is race, class and sex.” All three are plentiful in this novel, as it alternates between fist-clenching suspense and quiet, even tearful moments.

Ike and Buddy Lee are classic antiheroes—imperfect and amazingly human. Watching them deal with their heartbreak, rage, prejudice and regret makes for a compelling story, and it’s set against the backdrop of a first-class page turner.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.