My Darkest Prayer by S.A. Cosby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you want to know where the bodies are buried in a small town, ask the local undertaker. You can take that literally or figuratively.
Nathan Waymaker is a former Marine, an ex-cop, and he currently lives and works at the funeral home owned by his cousin. Despite being a generally good guy he also has a temper that would make the Hulk nervous, and his anger problems weren’t helped by the corrupt sheriff’s department he used to work for letting the man who killed his parents go free. When the leader of a local church was shot to death it seems like the cops may be tanking the case so some of the parishioners ask Nathan to check up on the police. Soon Nathan finds himself on the bad side of the cops as well as a dangerous gangster, but on the good side of the church leader’s estranged daughter who is a gorgeous porn star.
You win some, you lose some…
SA Cosby is another author I learned about at last year’s Bouchercon. He caught my attention with his reading of a short story at the Noir-At-The-Bar event. Then he impressed me even more with his participation on a panel about modern noir, and I saw him attending other panels in the audience where he asked great questions so I made a point out of meeting him at one of the signings. Every time I was around him it was obvious that not only was he a dedicated and intelligent fan of crime fiction, but that he was living his dream by being there as an author and loving every second of it. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I’d say he deserved a MVP award for the conference as well as the Anthony Award he won for best short story.
As for the book, it’s gritty, violent, funny, and almost as entertaining as its author. It follows some of the tropes of crime fiction with a well-intentioned detective of sorts taking what seems like a simple job and getting in over his heard. There’s even the obligatory bad ass friend in the form of Nathan’s buddy Skunk. If a good friend helps you move, and a great friend helps you move a body, then Skunk qualifies as a great friend. There’s also some humor along with it that reminded me of how Joe Lansdale mixes violence, profanity, depth, and laughs. Some angles of the story also reminded of Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series.
Yet Cosby has his own voice that firmly establishes the small town Virginia setting, and then he built an intriguing lead character to guide us through it. Nathan’s history as the biracial son of a white man dedicated to a life of peaceful non-violence and a more pragmatic black woman makes him conflicted in that he feels like he’s constantly failing his late father in some ways. Yet deep down he’s just not the kind of guy who thinks that turning the other cheek is the correct response to a cruel and unfair world.
While Cosby’s personality may have sold me on reading this book, his writing is what will get me to buy his next one.
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