“Razorblade Tears” (Flatiron Books, 2021, hard cover, 336 pages $13.49) by S. A. Cosby is the gritty and often gut-wrenching saga of two bereaved fathers, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee.
Randolph is a Black man with a violent temper. After serving a fifteen-year prison sentence, Ike has learned to suppress his demons and now owns a successful landscaping business. But his life changes when his gay son, Isiah, is murdered along with his married partner, the white son, Derek, of another ex-con, Buddy Lee.
Buddy Lee is a man with nothing to lose. Lee lives in a trailer park and his best and only friend and constant companion is a bottle of hard liquor. He is also grappling with deep regret over his inability to accept his son’s gay lifestyle before Derek died.
Determined to stay out of trouble, Ike initially refuses to become a vigilante when Buddy Lee approaches him with the idea of trying to solve the brutal murder of their sons.
But when police investigators fail to identify any suspects, and after Isiah’s and Derek’s gravestones are vandalized, Ike can no longer accept that no one will be held accountable for his son’s death. His decision to join forces with Buddy Lee steamrolls them down a road of retribution.
Set in Richmond, Virginia, “Razorblade Tears” tackles racism, sometimes subtly and sometimes head on. In one poignant scene, Buddy Lee says he would switch lives with Ike if he could have Randolph’s fancy truck. Ike spirals into a lecture about how Buddy Lee’s life will change if the color of his skin is black. At the end of the diatribe, Randolph asks Buddy Lee if he still wants the truck and Buddy Lee is silent.
Cosby doesn’t shy away from exposing homophobic prejudice either. He seamlessly slides these teachable moments into an action-packed drama spotlighting the dark underworld of power and greed.
At its heart, “Razorblade Tears” is the story of two dads estranged from their sons because of the lifestyle they chose, only discovering in death what they missed out on because of their own prejudices.
The nonstop action will keep readers turning the page, but it is the raw emotional regret these two parents feel that lingered with me long after completing the book.
“Razorblade Tears” was an Instant New York Times Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee, and a Book of the Month’s Book of the Year Finalist.
TIME Magazine ranked it in its100 Must-Read Books of 2021. NPR listed it as a Best Book of 2021, and The Washington Post considered it one of the Best Thriller and Mystery Books of the Year.
Fans of Angie Thomas’ Concrete Rose, Paula McLain’s When the Stars Go Dark and Julia Heaberlin’s We Are All the Same in the Dark will probably enjoy the novel. Razorblade Tears is not for readers with a low tolerance for violence, but for those that enjoy a dark, twisty ride, this book will not disappoint. I loved it!
S.A. Cosby is a New York Times national best-selling author from Southeastern Virginia. Cosby has published two other crime novels: “My Darkest Prayer” and “Blacktop Wasteland.” His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and magazines and his short story, “The Grass Beneath My Feet”, won the Anthony Award for Best Short Story in 2019. When not writing, he works at a funeral home, sometimes driving a hearse. Cosby is also an avid hiker and chess player.