Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin [Review]

Posted 29 December, 2010 by DLWhite in Reviews, Writers Read 0 Comments

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A NovelCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me just start by saying…this book was FANTASTIC. A real page turner, a mystery like none other with a great human interest and race relations undercurrent. I guess I have to admit that these are my favorite kinds of books, ones that detail the struggle between choosing what you’ve always been taught and forging your own ideas about things and going your own way.

After the disappointment of the last book I read, I was craving something gripping, not the same old story told in the same old way. I picked this book out off of some list and from Page 1 it had me.

In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.

As you can imagine, I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in Mississippi via the imagery painted by the author. I could see the house that Larry and his family lived in, the delapitated cabin that Silas and his mother lived in, the lush forests and dirt roads of the back country and the daily ramblings and small town adventures of Chabot. The cast of characters was sparkling and charming–I don’t think there was one underdeveloped character, not one useless name, not one wasted sentence. Even the stories Carl told served a purpose. Every person played a part in this story from Larry to Voncelle (office clerk) to Angie (medical examiner and Silas’ love interest) I also love when a writer can make me almost hear the dialog in my head, like I’m watching the movie.

I sort of felt sorry for “Scary Larry”. Poor, weird little kid. Toward the climax, there are a few twists that I really enjoyed digging into, namely the connection between Larry and Wallace, and Larry, Silas, Carl and Ina– I suspected this one pretty early on but the author kept me waiting to confirm it. There’s nothing like sitting straight up, eyes wide open, and gasping while you read and then the pages can’t turn fast enough.

Well written, I really enjoyed it. I rarely give a book 5 stars, and I was tempted, but two things kept me from doing so:

a) There is a secret that Larry learns ( a few of them) that should tear him up more than they do. We’re so of left dangling when he should be angry and hurt and lashing out and he doesn’t. He seems sort of ‘alright’ with it and I disagreed that his reaction should be so mild.

b) I decided that things didn’t conclude as messily as I’d imagine they would, had this happened in real life. It was real… “pat”. I dislike pat.

It’s like happy endings… do they really exist?

Other than that, LOVED IT.

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