Reviews of Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears

by S. A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby X
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2021, 336 pages

    Apr 2022, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah's white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek's father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby's Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change - and maybe even redemption.


Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might, nothing came to mind.

The two men stood side by side on the small concrete landing of his front step with their hands on their belts near their badges and their guns. The morning sun made the badges glimmer like gold nuggets. The two cops were a study in contrast. One was a tall but wiry Asian man. He was all sharp angles and hard edges. The other, a florid-faced white man, was built like a powerlifter with a massive head sitting atop a wide neck. They both wore white dress shirts with clip-on ties. The powerlifter had sweat stains spreading down from his armpits that vaguely resembled maps of England and Ireland respectively.

Ike's queasy stomach began to do somersaults. He was fifteen years removed from Coldwater State Penitentiary. He had bucked the recidivism statistics ever since he'd walked out of that festering wound....

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. In chapter four, Ike retreats to his shed, ostensibly to use his heavy bag, but it's here he finally allows himself to cry. How much of Ike's intense grief do you think is based on the loss of his son and how much do you think is based on his guilt at his own intolerance in regards to Isiah's homosexuality?
  2. The vandalism of their sons' gravestone provides the catalyst for Ike and Buddy Lee to begin their investigation. What do you think the destruction of the gravestone symbolizes for both Ike and Buddy Lee, and how does the way each of them sees this action determine their decisions going forward?
  3. Buddy Lee and Ike are both ex-cons and are both fathers of gay sons who didn't have a positive relationship with their children. As ...
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BookBrowse Review


Cosby leans away from a simple redemption arc, instead showing the emotional silence that follows Ike and Buddy Lee's chaotic behavior. In this space, the reader can feel their grief as well as the stark consequences of their choices. They thrive on conflict, and part of what makes losing their sons so hard is that they can no longer deal with their own uneasiness by antagonizing Isiah and Derek. They are left alone with their residual bigotry, which is no longer their sons' problem. Even as they support each other and attempt to right at least one wrong, they are aware that it will not make up for the past, and this lends a distinct sense of gravity to the book's events despite Cosby's entertaining writing...continued

Full Review (708 words).

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(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
Simultaneously a contemplative mystery and a stunning thrill ride. A master of his craft, Cosby balances incredibly complicated characters with enveloping suspense and some of the most captivatingly violent scenes that you will ever read…Cosby's writing is both fearless and sympathetic, exhibiting his formidable intellect alongside vivid imagery, sharp wit and intricate plot lines. Razorblade Tears transcends genre boundaries and is a must-read for anyone looking for a mystery that provokes and thrills in equal measure.

S.A. Cosby blew us away with last year's searing heist thriller/rural noir Blacktop Wasteland, and with Razorblade Tears he's done it again. In a heartbreaking tale of love, murder, vengeance, and acceptance, two ex-cons, one Black and one white, team up to find those responsible for the death of their sons, who were married to each other…Shattering and beautiful, this is a must-read for genre and literary fiction fans alike.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A tour de force – poignant, action-packed, and profound.

New York Times
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...[he] is fearless in concocting colorful similes in the grand tradition of go-for-baroque pulp...More important, the book moves. It thrums. Razorblade Tears practically taunts you every time you try to put it down.

Washington Post
Elmore Leonard, wherever you are, you've got competition. With his third novel...S.A. Cosby has reappeared as one of the most muscular, distinctive, grab-you-by-both-ears voices in American crime fiction...Cosby is plainly nuts about the American language, and the novel absolutely sings with it.

Booklist (starred review)
A powerful blend of pulsing action, sensitive and subtle character interaction, and uncompromising but highly nuanced reflection on racism and homophobia…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.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This is a bloody good yarn with two compelling antiheroes you'll root for from the start...Lean and mean, this is crime fiction with a chip on its shoulder. Violence and love go hand in hand in this tale of two rough men seeking vengeance for their murdered sons.

Library Journal (starred review)
Cosby follows his award-nominated Blacktop Wasteland (an LJ Best Mystery selection for 2020) with another stand-alone mystery that's already been optioned for a film. His story of fathers and sons, of men learning to respect others' lives, has an unexpected depth for such a violent, confrontational book. This powerful book should be in every library.

Publishers Weekly
The relentless pace and at times brutal action stand out, but more memorable are the richly developed characters of Ike and Buddy Lee...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.

Author Blurb Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Razorblade Tears is superb. No doubt, S. A. Cosby is not only the future of crime fiction but of any fiction where the words are strong, the characters are strong and the story has a resonance that cuts right to the heart of the most important questions of our times.

Author Blurb P. J. Vernon, author of Bath Haus
S. A. Cosby is a once-in-a-generation storyteller — and he's only getting started. In Razorblade Tears, Cosby delivers a jaw-dropping thriller of vengeance, cruelty, and heart. His iconic voice, cinematic prose, and brilliant plotting will have you hearing an 80-piece orchestra at full crescendo as you race towards an ending so explosive, you'll literally duck for cover. This book is far more than a work of art; it's the gold standard.

Reader Reviews

Daryl Pauley

Razorblade Tears
Authentic people, sometimes relatable. The main characters carry the tale. The pathos of the story hit home with me because of my own alienation from some of my children. Parents can be taught a few things while reading this book. Their children ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

LGBTQ+ History and Community in Richmond, Virginia

Crowd of people standing around a rainbow LOVE sign at Virginia PridefestIn S.A. Cosby's Razorblade Tears, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins attempt to solve the murder of their sons, Isiah and Derek, by sorting through the married couple's former lives in Richmond, Virginia. As they speak to Isiah and Derek's friends and acquaintances, they put together a better picture of who their sons were, and of the struggles and community that made up their reality as queer men. A bartender, Tex, explains to Ike and Buddy Lee, "Richmond's a pretty good place to live if you're gay or queer or whatever, but ... we still in the South. Unless you straight and white you gotta watch your back." Tex's statement arguably doesn't only apply to the Southern United States, but his larger point rings true: Richmond, like many ...

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