All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby

Charon County was founded in bloodshed and darkness.


And that bloodshed and darkness has not disappeared over the decades of the town’s existence.

The South doesn’t change. You can try to hide the past, but it comes back in ways worse than the way it was before. Terrible ways.


Titus Crown is the first Black Sheriff in the county, taking over from a previous corrupt Sheriff who did not serve the people, only himself. One year to the day that Crown took over, he is called to a school shooting where a much-loved teacher is shot and a local, young man is then shot by the police for shooting the teacher. Before he was shot, Latrell MacDonald shouted out about the teacher and the photographs on his phone.

These photos turn out to be horrendous incidents where black children are killed by men wearing wolf masks. The rest of the community doesn’t know this and wants to hold a vigil for the teacher and the Black community wants justice for Latrell being killed without knowing that he was present when the vile acts were perpetrated against the children. However, in the photos is a third man with his mask still on, sleeves taped to his gloves and quite muscular. This last wolf is one of the community and it is Crown’s job to find him.

Playing behind the scenes are all the usual crimes being committed in the town plus a bunch of Confederates refusing to allow a group of Black people led by a Black minister who want to tear down the town statue. Crown finds himself often in an impossible situation where White people think he always takes the side of Blacks and Black people think the has given up as being a black man and accuse him of being an ‘oreo’, a biscuit that is black on the outside with a white filling. Cosby does a very thorough job in the book of describing what it must be like to be a Black man wearing a uniform in the South. It could almost be seen as a mask itself, just like the masks worn by the criminals: a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Behind all of this is also religious zealotry: how can a small town have 22 churches? And here religion plays its part. There are religious phrases inscribed on the bodies of the dead children. The building where the horrors take place has angels painted on its walls and many hide behind religion as an excuse for their behaviour. Even Crown’s father has given up alcohol and taken up religion.

This book has it all, showing us how prejudice lingers and shapes the America and the town’s society. In the book, the County of Chanon becomes a character in its own right and has chapters all to itself, written in italics, that are told by an omniscient narrator sharing with us what is going on.

Sundays bring little respite from the shadows swirling over Charon. From Methodist to Catholic to Baptist to Lutheran to Jehovah’s Witness, ministers and pastors and elders and reverends find their words of consolation and spiritual strength falling on largely deaf ears. What God would allow such a curse to befall his people? No one will say it aloud, but many many congregants are having a crisis of the soul. Many are putting their faith in shotgun shells and .357s, not the carpenter from Gallilee.


It’s good; almost as good as Razorblade Tears.

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