Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

The Essentials

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin (304 pages)

$10.19 on Amazon, available on Kindle for $9.99

Description from Amazon

“In the 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals in a small town in rural Mississippi. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, black single mother. But then Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie and she was never seen or heard from again. He never confessed . . . and was never charged.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry lives a solitary, shunned existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has become the town constable. And now another girl has disappeared, forcing two men who once called each other “friend” to confront a past they’ve buried for decades.”

Review

As is apparent from the description, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is not just a typical murder mystery. The relationship between the two main characters, Larry and Silas, drives the plot. Franklin uses the literary device of switching perspective between Larry and Silas from chapter to chapter. The narrative also switches between the past and present, giving the reader valuable background and insight into the characters’ motivations, desires, and actions. I enjoyed having the backstories of the characters developed slowly across the novel. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is exceptionally well written and is hard to put down.

Franklin’s masterful writing style and incredible imagery separate Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter from other books.  Most of the story is based on dialogue, but it is interspersed with exceptionally evocative imagery. In this passage, Larry is waiting for a friend who never comes:

“He was disappointed but not surprised when night stole the far trees and the fence across the road and then the road itself and finally the sky, Larry’s truck gone too in the dark and stars beginning to wink in the sky like nail holes in the roof of a barn.”

The characters are very believable, and I found myself sympathizing with them throughout. Although the reader wants the mystery to be solved, it’s rarely the focal point of the plot. More often, you are given a window into how Larry’s life has been affected by events of 30 years ago, and you want to see if Silas and Larry can reconcile their relationship. All your plot-related questions are answered by the end of the book, but the answers, when they are revealed, feel secondary to learning about the lives of the main characters.

In an interview that can be read in its entirety here, Franklin describes his book by stating, “It’s a sad book, but it’s full of hope. Hope is what I want a reader to leave with.” I believe Franklin succeeds.

I highly recommend the book and look forward to reading more of Franklin’s work. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and, if so, what you thought of it.

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