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)
Though I was interested in the story and the characters, I found the novel to lazily meander through time with no real twists or turns in the plot. Once all the players were introuced the plot was predictable to the end.
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.
I agree with Sherrie Dunford's review, so I'll direct you there. The reviews from those I follow made this an easy choice for me, but I was very disappointed. The reader was great, but I can't recommend the book. Three stars is being generous, actually.
As an AA female it got a bit tiresome having to hear the lovely and expressive "N" word said so many times and with such fervor to help me understand the true nature of the natives and their mindsets in this story at a time in our history when blacks were not houseguests normally received with opened arms.
I was born in Mississippi and spent many summers at my grandparents on one of their farms and was sheltered from the brutality and inhumanity that pervaded the south in my youth as I grew up in Illinois. However, in all truthfulness, I personally never actually experienced the racism that is well documented having occurred in Ole Miss, I received most of my lessons in Illinois. I knew it existed and that it was explosively dangerous, the news was very informative in this regard. My sole experience with it there came when a bunch of us kids were ushered to a back entrance at a movie theater and 'made' to sit in the balcony. It was cool to me, I always sat in the balcony at home anyway, but entering through the back was a bit creepy.
I didn't think that racism put Mississippi on the map, Elvis did that, so at 59, listening to this book is a grim reminder of just how far we truly have not advanced. We've made some progress, no doubt, but it left me unmoved. I say this because my great-grandmother was Caucasian and married to my great-grandfather, a black man, in a state that hung folks on trees like freshly washed laundry; this book didn't surprise me at all. I knew early on where it was going...
I think this book could have really delved deeper into interpersonal relationships, both interracial and intraracial ones, more substantially. It could've depicted stronger how daily life was for biracial persons trying to live innocuously between two worlds at differing points in time. It could've given a more realistic perspective of how crime really was handled by small town sheriffs and their deputies and how the law and the white citizens dealt with their 'perceived' notions regarding black on white crime then. The book touched on aspects of it, but what if it had gone deeper, more bolder and challenged 'US' in the now?
I was just hoping for so much more. I was sorely disappointed and this book left me u-n-i-m-p-r-e-crooked letter-crooked letter-e-d.
A bit late to wonder on this point now isn't it?
The performance was very well done.
I will not recommend it.
I don't feel like listening to this was a waste of time but it is not a book/audio recording I would recommend.
There was not enough difference between the character's voices. Silas and Angie's voices were excellent, every other woman and man sounded exactly alike.
I would enjoy a prequel more than a sequel with the story of Alice, Carl and Ina being fleshed out.
I wanted to love this novel but only liked it. Franklin blatantly telegraphed all of the revelations. There was no a-ha moment, nor was the resolution of either murder all that interesting.
Adams Consulting Group
The story had many surprises and kept me in my car longer than needed many times because I didn't want to stop listening. The narrator changed tones for every character, he was amazing, like watching a professional performance in the theater. I highly recommend this book.
This book had been recommended to me for quite a while and when I found it on sale on audible I grabbed it and am I glad I did! I couldn't stop listening; the narration was mesmerizing and the story was as well. The characters were so well drawn I felt sympathy for all of them, even the bad guys. A drama, a thriller, a mystery. This book has it all!
Narrator did an outstanding job! I was skeptical about reading this book. It held my interest until the last word leaving me with a desire to delve deeper into the lead characters. I would recommend it to a friend!
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