Razorblade Tears: Two Dads Want Revenge
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2021, 319 pages
The premise of this gritty novel is simple. Two dads, one black, one white, seek revenge for the murder of their sons. However, there's so much more depth than just a thriller based on revenge.
"Folks like to talk about revenge like it's a righteous thing but it's just hate in a nicer suit."
Both dads have criminal pasts and have served time, but have lived honest lives since their releases. Ike is married and has a flourishing landscaping business while Buddy Lee has a harder life, divorced and taking on odd jobs. Their sons meet at college, fall in love and are married but both dads are estranged because they couldn't accept their sons were gay, so they don't attend. We don't actually know much about the sons except a few negative and heartbreaking memories here and there as the dads remember harsh words yelled. When the sons are brutally murdered and the police don't seem interested in solving the case, the dads feel compelled to act. The criminal experiences that they've tried to put behind them are rusty but still there, under the surface.
“Tears ran from his eyes and stung his cheeks. Tears for his son. Tears for his wife. Tears for the little girl they had to raise. Tears for who they were and what they all had lost. Each drop felt like it was slicing his face open like a razorblade.”
The story takes on sort of a buddy vibe as the dads begin the difficult work of trying to figure out the who and why of their sons' deaths. Even though they hadn't met before, these flawed men share immense grief over the loss of their sons. Ike calls out Buddy Lee on his racist remarks and alcoholism while Buddy Lee comes to realize his inherent racism, "it's the way I was brought up", is hurtful. They learn to rely on each other.
One of the best parts of Razorblade Tears is that as the men begin to learn about their sons' lives and actions that might have led to their deaths, they also very gradually come to understand the true enormity of their loss. The character growth is deftly handled as these hard men who couldn't accept homosexual sons begin to see that love is love and their regrets fuel their need for vengeance.
"It didn't seem fair for a man to mourn someone abundantly that he had loved so miserly."
The body count rises, they are injured, and tragedy hits hard, but they don't give up. Their grief turns to anger that turns to fury. There is plenty of death and mayhem. Yes, it's violent. It's also illuminating, sad, gritty, and emotional.
The characters of Ike and Buddy Lee are believable (my highest praise) and it would be easy to dislike them. They are criminals. They are racist. They are homophobic. They are emotionally distant. And yet. They are the driving force that keeps this novel moving and engrossing. I found myself totally rooting for them and was proud of their ability to change long held beliefs.
I have Blacktop Wasteland by the same author on my TBR and I think I'll just have to move it higher up the list! I highly recommend this novel!