45 pages • 1 hour readS. A. Cosby
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Razorblade Tears is a 2021 crime novel by author S. A. Cosby. It tells the story of Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Williams, two men with violent histories. They meet at a funeral after their sons—who were married—are brutally executed at gunpoint as part of a cover-up. Cosby uses Ike and Buddy Lee’s ensuing investigation, as well as their pursuit of retribution and justice, to explore loyalty, intolerance toward gay people and the fear of otherness, humans’ innate capacity for violence, the nature of justice, and more. This guide uses the 2021 Kindle edition.
Content Warning: Razorblade Tears contains bigoted language toward Black and LGBTQ people. It also depicts interrogation scenes that use torture.
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As the novel begins, two detectives visit Ike Randolph, formerly known as “Riot Randolph.” He has been out of prison for 15 years and runs a landscaping company. The detectives tell him that his son, Isiah, has been murdered. At the funeral, he meets Buddy Lee William. Buddy Lee is the father of Derek, Isiah’s husband, who was also murdered. They commiserate over the detectives’ lack of progress, and Buddy hints that maybe they should take matters into their own hands.
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Ike demurs: Those days are behind him. Soon, someone defaces the graves of their sons, destroying the headstones and spray-painting them with anti-gay and racial slurs. Ike slips easily back into his old identity and the two men begin to pursue the killers. Later, we will learn that Buddy Lee defaced the graves to lure Ike into pursuing the killers.
Soon, Ike and Buddy Lee run afoul of a motorcycle gang, the Rare Breed. The gang’s president, Grayson, is working for someone who wants them to find a woman named Tangerine. The reader later learns that Tangerine is a trans woman. She had been having an affair with a powerful, married man named Gerald Culpepper, a judge launching a run for governor. Tangerine was threatening to talk to a reporter—Isiah—about her relationship with Gerald. Gerald didn’t want the relationship to become public knowledge and is responsible for Isiah and Derek’s murders.
Ike and Buddy Lee get into violent altercations with the Rare Breed during their quest to learn who killed their sons. The violence escalates, and the Rare Breed kidnaps Arianna, Isiah and Derek’s daughter. The gang also puts Mya, Ike’s wife, into the hospital by running into her car.
The novel climaxes with a massive gunfight that results in the deaths of Grayson, Gerald, and most of the Rare Breed. Ike and Buddy Lee free Tangerine and rescue Arianna, but Buddy Lee dies of his wounds after admitting that he was already dying of cancer. At the novel’s conclusion, Ike cries at the graves of their sons. He vows to be a better grandfather than he was a father. His tears now feel cleansing, more like rain than razorblades.
By S. A. Cosby