February 2nd, 2012


Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin

Two murders in Mississippi and one of the saddest protagonists you'll ever read.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

William Morrow, 2010, 274 pages

In a small Mississippi town, two men are torn apart by circumstance and reunited by tragedy in this resonant new novel from the award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed Hell at the Breech.

Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were unlikely boyhood friends. Larry was the child of lower middle-class white parents, Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother - their worlds as different as night and day. Yet a special bond developed between them in Chabot, Mississippi. But within a few years, tragedy struck. In high school, a girl who lived up the road from Larry had gone to the drive-in movie with him and nobody had seen her again. Her stepfather tried to have Larry arrested, but no body was found and Larry never confessed. The incident shook up the town, including Silas, and the bond the boys shared was irrevocably broken.

Almost 30 years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence in Chabot, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion, the looks of blame that have shadowed him. Silas left home to play college baseball, but now he's Chabot's constable. The men have few reasons to cross paths, and they rarely do - until fate intervenes again.

Another teenaged girl has disappeared, causing rumors to swirl once again. Now, two men who once called each other friend are finally forced to confront the painful past they’ve buried for too many years.

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Verdict: Highly recommended if you like mysteries, literary fiction, damaged but not pitiful protagonists, and Southern literature. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is pure Mississippi, with white and black characters who aren't playing out some sort of didactic racial drama but equally interwoven into their problematic pasts.

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