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)
The story was a somewhat interesting slice-of-life tale that was interesting enough to keep going but not enough to truly care. Narrator's voice work was excellent and really helped bring the characters to life. I don't often find this to be true but I don't think I would have enjoyed the printed book as much because of how well narrated this was.
I LOVED this book! I love a good cold case mystery, and this one ranks high on my list of favorites. Definitely looking into more titles from this author!
I'm one of those people who can get visceral reactions to things I see or hear and the snakes almost did me in. I really liked the story but the snake part, totally unnecessary to the plot except for grossness, almost made me stop listening. I finished it though and all in all really enjoyed it. Excellent narration and story.
This book is set in Mississippi; the first part is in the late 60's or early 70's, the second part, 25 years later. It involves a friendship between two boys, who drift apart and later resume their relationship, but under very different circumstances. Larry, who is white, has always been odd and with few friends, and he falls under suspicion after a girl he dates is never heard from again, and he remains in the town, living always under a cloud of suspicion. Silas, who is black, escapes the small southern town and goes to college on a baseball scholarship, but later returns as the town's new constable. The connections between Larry and Silas are many, and the characters in the novel are portrayed very well. I'll definitely look out for more books by this author!
It's been great being able to pick up books at such easy-on-the-wallet prices through the Audible Daily Deal. Thanks! Audible, and I hope it's an on-going feature. I'm able to pick up a couple of books I've wanted to *maybe* read; I'm always willing to shell out a couple of dollars on a *maybe*...$20-plus?...not so much. Crooked Letter was one of those I wanted to read when it was first published in 2010, but I had mixed feelings. I wasn't getting the same 5 star reviews from people I talked with.
Having finally listened, I enjoyed the book. Franklin is a good story-teller that keeps his story tight and moving forward -- no dangling little complications lost along the way, and no padding needed to juice it up. He is also a very fine writer. His descriptions are succinct and detailed without flourish. The plot, as outlined in detail throughout the many reviews, is believable, entertaining, and well thought out. I will probably browse through Franklin's other books for those times I just want someone to tell me a story.
The plot was a little predictable to me -- I hate when that happens, it takes away the enjoyment of having to continuing on when you've already figured it out. Kevin Kenerly was a good narrator for this, entertaining with his different accents and immersion into the story.
Overall a very entertaining (albeit predictable) story for a pleasant day of multi-tasking (between inside spring cleaning, and outside yard clean-up!).
Totally addicted to Audible.
I normally choose mysteries but this was a bit different. Lots of "if I had done things differently" twists plus some solidly interesting characters add up to a good book.
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