Our goal with all of our books is always to write something fun and fast-paced, but it also must touch on certain themes like privilege, racism and the inequality of our justice system because that’s the reality of the world we live in. That’s our experience and there’s no way to avoid it. We want our books to be part escapism, part very genuine critiques of the corrosive effects of social inequalities—but never with a heavy hand. Our stories are aggressive in their messaging but subtle in their execution, and our murder mystery, Perfect Little Lives is a quintessential example of that. This way there’s a backdrop of social commentary that isn’t on the nose or in your face because that’s how it is in real life; Racism is insidious, it’s not usually explicit and in your face.
Alyssa Cole’s debut thriller set in gentrified Brooklyn is brilliant because it takes something that a lot of us don’t think about often even though we see it happening before our eyes and makes it extremely ominous. When No One Is Watching is an entire vibe, an insidious, chilling ride with a twist that’s shocking but not far from the realm of possibility, which makes it even more menacing. Cole’s exploration of the horror of gentrification for the longtime black residents in this neighborhood is complex and cutting. There’s also a subplot involving a supporting character with a reveal you won’t see coming that deepens and grounds the story in the best way.
Wanda M. Morris’ debut is immaculate. With great nuance, she tackles the insidious nature of white supremacy in All Her Little Secrets. Our protagonist is an astute, underestimated black woman, a successful corporate lawyer who’s sleeping with her married boss. But this is only where her secrets begin. After she finds her paramour dead in his office one morning, she decides not to contact the authorities. She doesn’t want to get dragged into the investigation because of their sordid relationship. She then is offered an incredible promotion as his successor, but there must be a catch, right? In a second timeline, we follow her adolescent years in Chillicothe, Georgia when a life-altering tragedy changed the trajectory of her life.
Kia Abdullah’s exploration of rape culture in Truth Be Told which involves an extremely privileged student at an elite all-boys boarding school is truly exquisite. From page one, you will be gripped. What she does is very simple but so smart. A wealthy student claims that he was sexually assaulted by another male student and thinks it’s the end. But it’s only the tumultuous beginning of an emotionally harrowing roller coaster and Abdullah brilliantly takes us on the ride with our protagonist as we toggle between thinking he’s telling the truth, hoping he’s telling the truth and just wanting the truth. In this story all about morals and ethics, Abdullah redefines what a courtroom drama can be and layers in incredibly poignant emotional depth so when you finish the story, it stays with you in your subconscious for months.
S.A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is the perfect example of how you effortlessly blend social commentary with a solid suspense plot complete with well-developed, multi-dimensional, beautifully flawed characters. The message is clear but the delivery is never didactic; you never feel like you are being forced in one way or the other. You aren’t told which character is the “villain” or which you should root for. What S.A. Cosby does in this book is actually brilliant because he simply presents all of his character’s shortcomings and lets you make the judgments. In this story, we follow two convicted felons, Ike and Buddy Lee, who have both acclimated back into society and come together on a mission to find out who murdered their sons. Through their journey Cosby raises so many interesting points about addressing your own internalized homophobia and invites people to have the uncomfortable conversations they maybe need to have but are afraid to.
All of S.A. Cosby’s novels have something interesting to say about society while being wrapped in a tight, page-turning narrative, but All The Sinners Bleed is truly a masterpiece when it comes to delicately addressing two of the most buzzed about political topics right now: school shootings and black kids being killed by white police officers.
In this story, the main character—the first responder who is called to deal with the tragedy—is a black sheriff in a small, racist town. The suspense builds once we follow the sheriff as he tries to figure out why this seemingly innocent student suddenly decided to shoot up the school. But this is not your average mystery novel narrated by a detective. The character work is steep and layered. The book also doesn’t harp on the topics it brings up, it throws them out there and then allows you to have the discussion, which is exactly S.A. Cosby’s style.