Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter begins with one of the most compelling first lines I’ve heard in a while: “The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.” From there, Kevin Kenerly’s expert narration winds us through the empty storefronts, rusted out mailboxes, and weeded trailer lots of Chabot, Mississippi, where Ott pays the price every day for a 25-year-old crime no one can prove he committed. Silas “32” Jones lives on the opposite side of the law as the sheriff of this “hamlet”, where he continues to build on his hero status (earned on the high school baseball field) by doing expert police work.
In addition to the murder, Franklin has woven into this tale a Faulknerian family mystery complete with unexplained photographs, hand-me-down coats, and shotguns earned in fistfights. 32’s efforts to solve the Rutherford girl’s murder lead him much further back into his past than he is prepared to go, back to a one-room cabin on the Ott property where he lived as a child with his mother.
Kenerly speaks in a journalistic tone showing neither judgment of Ott’s isolated, suspicious lifestyle nor admiration of 32’s heroism. A vehicle for the story in earnest, Kenerly allows us to follow Franklin’s carefully placed clues about the Rutherford girl’s murder and Larry and 32’s mysterious and tangled past. Kenerly does this not only without giving anything away, but by adding a detached detective tone, carving out a space in the story for our emotions.
To the open-minded listener, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is an opportunity to atone for our playground sins not necessarily to straighten out our crooked letters, but to be redeemed into something more whole. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
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.
©2010 Tom Franklin (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A masterful performance, deftly rendered and deeply satisfying. For days on end, I woke with this story on my mind.” (David Wroblewski, New York Times best-selling author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)
I am waiting patiently for the best book on earth!!
Tom Franklin story begins somewhat slow as the characters are developed. Once the story begins to unfold I couldn't wait to see what came next. Lots of twists and surprises, with a great ending.
This book captured me from the first line. It's one where you'll find yourself doing an extra lap (or two) around the block because you don't want to stop listening.
Mr. Kenerly is one of the best narrators I've heard. Being from the south, there's nothing I hate worse than a fake southern accent. He slips in and out of characters/dialects so smoothly that you immediately know which character is speaking.
As I looked over the reviews for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter I kept thinking "yes, that's right" and "I totally agree" because this is a really good book. It has suspense, certainly, but it's so much more. And even though the main characters suffered a good bit because of their upbringing and class status, you sense immediately the goodness in both of them. Racism and hatred abound, but the novel's end gives cause for hope that better things lie ahead.
To not credit Kevin Kenerly for a great deal of the satisfaction from this story would be a shame. He became Larry, and Silas, and Wallace and every other character. He is simply excellent.
This is a fine use of a credit. Listen to this book!
Dang! Now this man can WRITE!
For me, the main problem in writing about an author of this caliber is that I just don't have the words to adequately describe the pleasure of reading/listening his book. WOW! Amazing! OMG! Awesome! Geez Louise! See what I mean?
On top of that, the narrator, Kevin Kenerly, is perfect! So talented!
The whole package was a delightful find and I won't soon forget it.
My reviews are always pending.
I should had waited for the movie before getting the book. For some reason, I could not get into the story at all, but I'm not a mystery reader and could have careless for any of the characters and the big question of who done it. I understand why there are so many good reviews for this book, but I didn't care for the southern mystery drama. I have a feeling that the movie would be better.
THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION
Set in the small Mississippi town of Chabot, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells the story of two boys turned men—Larry Ott and Silas Jones. On the surface, there seems to be nothing linking the two … but a long history binds the two together in ways that even they don’t fully understand.
Larry—a white boy from a middle class family that owns 500 acres of land and runs the local auto repair shop—has always been a bit of a misfit. With his nose always stuck in a book (usually Stephen King), Larry has never fit in with his peers. His outsider status is solidified in high school when a girl he was on a date with disappeared and was never seen again. This event earned him the nickname “Scary Larry,” and he now lives a solitary existence—ostracized by everyone in the town of Chabot.
Silas—known locally as 32 (the number from his baseball playing days)—is a black boy being raised by a single mother in a shack located on the Ott’s land. After moving to Chabot from Chicago, Silas manages to do what Larry has never managed to do in his whole life—achieve a status and a place within the town, first as a star baseball player and now as the Chabot constable.
Years ago, Silas and Larry were secret friends, until a pivotal moment destroyed their friendship. Although Larry has reached out to Silas on occasion, he has always been rebuffed. When another young girl goes missing, Larry is the first and only suspect. Yet Silas knows that Larry couldn’t be involved … but he can’t quite explain why. As the case of the missing girl and Larry Ott’s fate become more entwined, Silas realizes that he must get involved … even it means dredging up long-buried secrets.
There is a good reason everyone raves about this book. Full of small-town atmosphere and tightly drawn characters, the book manages to create a portrait of two men who, in many ways, are each other’s foil. I loved how Franklin managed to invert the truth of both men in a way that was utterly satisfying. The story moves back and forth between the present day and the past—slowly revealing the truth of each character’s past and present. It seemed like the book was always moving inevitably in the direction it ends up … but the journey was rich and fully developed. I don’t really want to say too much more as I already may have said too much in my description. Just know that you’re getting a richly atmospheric, multi-layered mystery that is as much about the masks we wear in public and who we really are deep down.
About the Narration: Kevin Kenerly did a fantastic job with the narration—creating two fully realized and distinct voices for both Larry and Silas. He made the story come alive, and I found his narration compelling and interesting. When he was reading, I was able to conjure up the images of Chabot, the characters and the events of the story. His narration was top-notch, and I could see that listening to this book on audio might actually enhance the experience.
Recommended for: Mystery fans who enjoy multi-layered and character-driven mysteries with plenty of Southern atmosphere
I wish books had ratings like movies. If so, this book would be rated R for over 25 uses of the f* word, not to mention the other constant references to immoral behavior and rude comments. I enjoyed the story line and the relationships that were developed, but could not recommend this book to another soul. It's like eating ice cream with dog doo all over it!
A long commute audio listener
I tried to listen to this story 3 times. Each time I listened, I found myself getting irritated because the person reading the story sounded like a professor who wants to hear himself talk. Blah, blah, blah........There were parts of it that almost got good.
Interesting story. One character had a nice rich deep voice. Others were odd and rather unsettling in their southern tone. Kept me captivated till the end.
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