Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Tom Franklin

Harper Perennial

304 pages

Larry Ott is a solitary figure.  Having lived in a small, southern town for his entire life, his reputation is tarnished and he is treated as a pariah.  As a teenager, Larry had been an outcast, so everyone was surprised when he was asked on a date by one of his female peers.  No one knows what happened to the girl, who disappeared while out with Larry.  From then on, the suspicions of the entire town lie with Larry, and everyone believes that he is guilty of the girl’s disappearance.

Now, years later, Larry lives by himself in the same town, and his old friend Silas “32” Jones is the constable of the town when another girl disappears.  Once again, Larry is caught in the middle of everyone’s suspicions.  32 is himself coming to terms with what happened years ago, and as the book wears on, his old relationship with Larry comes to light.  Added to all this complexity is the fact that 32 is black and Larry is white; not a seemingly big deal now, but decades ago in the south, their friendship was something that had to be more hidden.

I am a big mystery buff; literary mysteries are my weakness, and I expected this to be your run of the mill mystery about two missing girls.  In fact, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was anything but.  The character development was absolutely exquisite.  Both 32 and Larry, especially, were so intricately woven that I was immediately submerged into their world.  Larry became one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever encountered.  One scene was especially poignant for me.  The boys are teenagers, and Larry is dressed as a ghost for the local haunted house.  It seems as if his peers may have accepted him at this point, and he is part of the social scene, or so both he and I expected.

‘Anyway,’ he went on, ‘when Larry come out of the haunted house, we all just kind of pretended not to see him.  All of us.’

He told her how Larry stood in the floodlight for a long time.  Figuring it out.  The mask deflated under his arm.  Finally he turned and walked down the dirt road to the paved one.  He paused at the road in his whipping sheet and waited, as if a car was coming though none was, waited a long time, and still no car came.  Some of the seniors had forgotten him and were passing cigarettes and beer, but Silas watched as Larry finally crossed the road and walked into the parking lot.  He stopped there, too, and took off his sheet and looked over the cars, as if selecting one to buy.  He’d forgotten where he’d parked his mother’s Buick, that’s what he was doing now.  In case anybody glanced over and happened to notice him and yell, ‘Hey, look! It’s Larry! Come back! Join the party!’

My heart ached for Larry.  He is one of those characters that I expect will stay with me for a long time to come.  I just now realized that Franklin has written other novels prior to Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and I am anxious to see if anyone has read them and, if so, how they compare to this one.

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

Rhapsody in Books

The Literate Housewife Review

Caribous Mom

Books and Movies

Eclectic/Eccentric

Fizzy Thoughts

Page 247

Linus’s Blanket

Lesley’s Book Nook

I purchased this book for my kindle.

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9 Responses

  1. I have this on my wish list. I have heard nothing but good things about it. I really need to read it.

  2. Thanks for linking to my review! I haven’t read any of Franklin’s other books, but definitely plan to, since I loved this one so much.

  3. Great review, I totally agree that this book is more of a character study than a mystery and at first I wasn’t sure that made me happy, but now I know that it did.

  4. I’ve never read this author before but this makes me curious about his work. I love a good mystery and it seems as though this is a good one. The premise sounds like it might be a tired old one, but a good author always breathes new life into stories. I am adding it to my wishlist.

  5. I’ve been excited about this book for a while and it seems I’m going to be the last person to read it. Great review!

  6. This was such a good book! I, too, though Larry was a great character. Great mystery and great Southern writing. I’m looking forward to more by this author! Thanks for the link-love. 🙂

  7. I felt the same way about this one. It’s a book I’ve been recommending to men and women alike.

  8. I’ve had the sample of this book on my Kindle for a while now, but I haven’t really bought it yet since I wasn’t so sure about it. But your review has tipped my decision. Will purchase this and hope to read it soon.

  9. I just finished a literary mystery set in the South, and am definitely up for another good one; this sounds great — the fact that you are still thinking about the character (Larry) says alot…

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