SA Cosby seemed to explode onto the noir crime scene with his 2020 release Blacktop Wasteland, soon followed up by the equally compelling Razorblade Tears. But Cosby had been honing his craft for many years before his “sudden” success. But this success means that readers who have discovered Cosby can now enjoy My Darkest Prayer – his first novel, written in 2012.
My Darkest Prayer revolves around Nathan Waymaker – former soldier, former policeman – now working in his cousin’s funeral home and doing small protection and investigative jobs on the side so long as they don’t bring him to the attention of his former colleagues. A local preacher is found shot dead and the police investigation is dragging, so a group of his parishioners offer to pay Nathan to look into it. Despite his misgivings, Nathan takes on the case, bringing him back in the crosshairs of not only the corrupt local police who he believes covered up his parents’ deaths but a rival preacher and an organised crime boss.
My Darkest Prayer has all of the elements that have made Cosby’s more recent releases justified hits – a morally grey main character with a troubled past who does not always do the right, or even the smart thing, with an even more morally dubious friend, a satisfyingly twisty plot, plenty of sex, alcohol and violence and a build up to an explosive finale. But he also considers what it means to be Black in modern America, and the different standards applied through law enforcement and beyond. Judged by what was to come, My Darkest Prayer is a little rougher around the edges. But as a debut it is assured, fast-paced and perfect for fans of this style of American noir.