Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
304 pages
Published May 2011 by Harper Collins Publishers
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours

Two men: Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones. One white, one black. Both living in the same small town in Mississippi. M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I.

One the surface, Larry grew up appearing to have every advantage. An intact family, the color of his skin in a place and time where that mattered. But in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Larry is the more sympathetic of the two men. Larry never fit in any where. Not in his own family where his father mocked him for not being mechanically inclined, not in school where his love of books and knowledge were not valued. He grows up almost entirely friendless.

Silas is the boy, the man, we should empathize with--he grew up abjectly poor, fatherless and the wrong color in a place and time where that mattered. But there is a darkness to Silas that always keeps us at arms length. As he grows up, things begin to be better for him because, as a star athlete, he does fit in. In high school, while Larry is the boy that the other kids shun, Silas is the boy that other kids carry off the ball field on their shoulders.

Years after growing up, both men are once again living in the small town, no longer friends for reasons that are unclear to Larry. Silas is still the person that every one loves, working as constable and known to everyone by the number from his high school baseball jersey. Because of what happened on the one and only date he ever had, Larry is living a life of complete isolation. No friends, no local business at his father's old service station, his mailbox routinely destroyed. "Scary Larry" lives life with only mountains of books as his friends.

When a wealthy local girl goes missing, suspicion falls on Larry and Silas finds himself investigating. In this little town, it turns out that what happens on the surface is masking a myriad of secrets. Chabot, Mississippi is definitely not Mayberry, RFD.
"The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house."
Tom Franklin drew me in from the opening sentence and the energy and tension of the book never flagged. Who is the monster who has come to shoot Larry Ott? What did Larry say to Silas years ago that led to Silas beating Larry and the end of their friendship. What happened to Cindy Walker, the girl that Larry took on that date twenty years ago? Questions were flooding my mind as I raced through this book. As Franklin moves back and forth in time, slowly the answers begin to reveal themselves even as new ones are raised.

It's hard for me to believe that this book is just now being released. I've been hearing so much about it for months now and I was thrilled to be included on this tour. But, as so often is the case, I was concerned that no book could live up to the hype. This one does, with Franklin deftly blending mystery with the greater story of loneliness and friendship. His writing brings to life these characters and the many dimensions of small-town life. It is spare where it needs to be but never lacking in color. For me, the ending was a bit too tidy; I actually found myself hoping for a unclear ending. But that was the only flaw I found in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour!


  1. I had heard about this one too, but yours is the first review I read. Thank you!

  2. I liked this one a lot, plus it was a really quick read.

  3. I'm so glad that it lived up to your expectations (in spite of that minor flaw). Thanks so much for being on the tour!

  4. I read a lot of books, all different types, and I must admit that it's been a couple years since I read a book that haunted me. You won't be able to stop thinking about Larry long after you've finished the last page. If you're looking for a book that really gets into your heart, this is the book.