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)
A mystery story with a lot of southern drama set in Mississippi. Not as action packed as many mysteries, relies more on the drama between characters, which I enjoy but might be a little slow for some people. The narrator's performance was flawless. I loved every second of it. If you enjoy books about the south, books that deal with racism, books that deal with crime and mystery, books that look at the conflicting nature of family, this is a must read.
This story starts out as a murder mystery, but the real story is of two men, one white, one black. The disappearance of a girl many years ago, brings back memories to these two men, when another girl disappears in present day. Both of their lives had been altered by the first, and will be altered once again by the second. It's a depressing tale of the south and how race relations were at that time.
Not the type of book I usually like (too literary; too serious), but the other reviewers had given it high marks and I was looking for something different.
I was drawn in from the start. "Scary Larry" is the quiet, weird kid that never makes any friends. He has the added misfortune of a father who wanted a normal, athletic son and got stuck with a son he has only contempt for.
Larry strikes up a sort of friendship for a brief summer with Silas, the black boy who lives in a cabin on Larry's father's property. It's more a friendship for Larry than Silas. Silas, like everyone else, thinks Larry is a strange kid.
In high school, Larry is suspected of murdering a girl he took on a "date" which wasn't really a date. He lives the next few decades as ostracized Scary Larry, until the paths of Larry and Silas cross again when Larry is suspected in a second murder.
All the characters are 3-dimensional and sometimes painfully real. I vacillated between feeling sorry for Larry and disliking him for being such a creepy guy.
The narrator is perfect. His voices for each character were distinct and, for me, helped me picture them in a way I probably wouldn't have if I had read the book.
As the story developed, the characters came alive and became less stereotypes. And I really started to enjoy them and the story... And then it was over. Nice story, interesting twists and overall a great listen. I really enjoyed the narrator too, he added a lot to the overall experience.
Overall the story was good and I did like it, but it jump around from the past to the present and several times it wasn't clear whether it was past or present. Then at times it was very clear. Be consistent next time. Other than that I enjoyed the book.
The narrator did do a really good job.
It is a decent little mystery.
I like to weed and read at the same time.
I was completely drawn in to the mystery of the 2 missing girls and the wonderful evocation of Mississippi. The narrator caught the tone of all the characters including the female voices
exceptionally well. Hated this book to end.
I enjoyed the way the story was put together and expertly laid out. It revealed the important details in a slow methodical manner that held my interest. Overall good theme construction
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