S.A. Cosby is a master of suspense and thrills in his 2020 novel, Blacktop Wasteland. He combines intensity, rapid pacing, and a command of the sentence that boggles my mind. This is a heist thriller, and its action sequences sizzle like hot metal on pavement at 120 mph. At the same time, Cosby throws in eloquent descriptions and memorable characters. It’s everything I want in a suspense novel. 

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is a complicated man, struggling to find his way in a complex world. He carries the heritage of his father’s criminal past. In addition, he has a checkered past of his own. And now he’s trying to live a clean life as a business owner, son, husband, and father. But circumstances conspire against him. It’s a story of the “one last job” to straighten out a financial mess.

But, of course, nothing is ever simple. And Cosby devises believable but still surprising twists in the story. All the while, he makes Beauregard into a likeable guy. Tough as nails, yes. But someone who genuinely wants to be the good guy, which makes readers root for him.

My conclusions

I listened to the audiobook here, with excellent narration from Adam Lazarre-White. I did more chores and drove more slowly (which is counter intuitive considering the story) so I could find out what happened to Bug. On the other hand, the book went way too fast. I want more about the Montage family and the people of Red Hill, Virginia.

My absolute favorite part of Cosby’s writing is the unique descriptions he throws into the story. Our hero hard charges through a crisis. But then, Cosby throws in an absolutely delicious little morsel of writing like this. “When he stepped off the porch, he could feel the sun beating down on him like he owed it money.” Fantastic, right?

And Cosby doesn’t shy away from pointed commentary on the life of Black men in rural America. Beauregard knows that he’s in danger and not just from the villains of the story. He also watches out for any cops or a random good old boy who happens across Bug and his family. 

I walked away from Blacktop Wasteland thinking maybe I should ditch my dreams of an electric car. Instead, how about an old-school muscle car, like my first high school boyfriend drove? (It was a pre-1976 Dodge Charger.) Okay, just kidding. But honestly, the driving scenes in this book are absolutely heart-stopping. I held my breath for every single one.

I recommend this if you need a thriller that grips you and won’t let go, while still being written with finesse and care.

Pair with The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith or Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Both are positively intense.