If you ever had the chance to hear S.A. Cosby read at a Noir at the Bar (N@B) then you’d know why so many people were looking forward to his debut novel, “My Darkest Prayer”. Cosby is a big guy, not only in size but in personality. When he reads, it’s not that you can’t help but listen, you have to. Months after a reading, a local Philadelphia author said to me, and I’m paraphrasing, “That story by Shawn Cosby, that was messed up”.
Cosby does the impossible by taking the energy and craziness of a N@B performance and puts it to paper. I want to give you the hook of the story but it seems so trifling every time I write it out because it just doesn’t capture the electric charge the runs through the pages of “My Darkest Prayer”.
I handle the bodies.
That’s what I say when people ask me what I do for a living. I find that gets one of two responses. They drift away to the other side of the room and give me a sideways glance the rest of the night or they let out a nervous laugh and move the conversation in another, less macabre direction. I could always say I work at a funeral home, but where’s the fun in that?
Set in rural southern Virginia, Cosby tells the story of Nathan Waymaker who reluctantly helps out two church ladies who want him to investigate the death of their pastor Esau Watkins. Watkins wasn’t a run-of-the-mill pastor by any stretch, oh, he was crooked like many big church pastors, but he was a criminal long before he put on the white collar of Christ.
Cosby deftly steps around the stereotypes of PI novels as well as the clichés that plague the “best” Southern writing today. For instance, the county cops in “My Darkest Prayer” are not outwardly corrupt, let’s just say they are comfortable with the way things are: the paycheck, the forced respect, and the power.
As the mystery deepens, Cosby doesn’t resort to parlor tricks or outrageous coincidences to move the story along, instead it’s the absorbing characters that we focus on. Cosby delivers a dark righteousness in this sharp debut novel that will grab you by the throat and not let you go.