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)
It's been a long time since a book grabbed me like this one. I just couldn't put it down. The reader is great and the story just kept building.
Oh, this book had the potential of being a total knock-out. It has a great premise, good characters, good writing, all the ingredients, but it never had a plot twist or a surprise. I knew what would happen almost from the get go. It was so obvious as to be almost embarrassing. I kept reading because I just knew some fabulous twist was on the next page. It just never came. Taken from a relationship standpoint, it was pretty good, but what could have been a fabulous murder mystery ended up being no mystery at all.
One redeeming factor was that the narrator was really good.
The atmosphere of the small southern town, the characters and the ways their lives intersect are all developed into an original story that is convincing and winning. It is at times a sad story but not dark or depressing, or smothering, as some southern fiction can be. This is a case where the narration adds so much to the story. I think Kevin Kenerly does a marvelous job, especially with the policeman Silas '32' Jones. When we're with 32, we're right with the world.
Books like this are why I am an audible customer. It took a little time to get into the book because it does jump around a bit. I even had to rewind a bit and go back to reconnect to the story, but it was late and I was drowsy too. Unexpected twists and turns kept my attention from then on. Well written book by a wordsmith that knows how to turn a phrase. Well narrated too. Five stars for mystery lovers.
Interesting characters, good story, good pace, and perfect narration. This was a very enjoyable listen. Whenever i "sneak" time listening to a book where i'm not driving or jogging, i know the book has me hooked... And even though i know how important good narration is, i don't usually make too much of it. But in this case, it's worth emphasizing - not overdone, not flat, just spot-on perfect.
Please don't miss this one. If your hesitant just don't think about it..CLICK, CLICK, DOWNLOAD. You won't regret it. This is for anyone who respects a good story!!
Ph.D. Psychologist and Coach
This book has it all. Franklin has written a compelling mystery that is written like a literary novel and catches the essence of the rural south. The narrator is wonderful and captures both black and white southern voices with expertise. One of the best books I've listened to this year -- and I have over 100 books in my library. After Crooked Letter I read Franklin's earlier two historical novels -- which were very good but not as good as this contemporary story.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is part murder mystery, part tale of personal and family redemption, and wholly evocative of a poor, rural area of Mississippi in both the '80s and the present. Tom Franklin's writing is superb -- carefully crafted, its beauty at times spare and at times lyrical -- and his ear for dialect is unerring. Kevin Kenerly's narration captures the South and the timbres of black and white voices with perfect understatement.
One reviewer remarked that this is not a book for the sensitive, but I disagree. Yes, it touches our own pain on many levels; yes, we are drawn into bleak lives. Even at their bleakest moments, though, the characters are never entirely without a touching, tenuous, almost baffling hope. Ultimately, this is a story of healing, of refashioning what is broken into a new wholeness. A book that can take us on that journey is for the most sensitive among us, a book that above all is uplifting.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
This book just ended for me less than 10 minutes ago and I am forlorn! I didn't want it to end. In fact, I wish there was a sequel to continue to untangle the relationship of Silas and Larry. Having none, we will just have to imagine all the possible endings, happy and otherwise.
The story is completely engaging; as is the narration of Kevin Kenerly whose portrayals of the handful of characters is nothing short of brilliant. His intonation and pace were so perfect and true to the story he was reading that he brought it to life.
Make no mistake, this is a painful, poignant story of the old south recounted in a south that is coming of age. There are injustices and hurts that most of us can only imagine, having not experienced life as a poor African-American boy or a young man wrongfully accused of a grotesque crime. Larry, Silas, Wallace and others are captivating characters that will have you hooked early on in the story and you will be awed at how these relationships play out as the story evolves.
Loved this book! Hope that you will too!
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