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)
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.
Ears picking up the slack so my eyes can work.
I enjoyed this novel. It was well written. Actually very impressive in a technical sense. it’s a mystery as well as a human drama. An exploration of the south. It does all of these things well. It even cheats a little bit by holding things back in terms of the mystery without it leaving a bad taste afterwards. With mysteries I think it is an unwritten rule that an entirely new aspect of the story isn’t going to manifest in the 11th hour of the story or else it is something of a deus ex machina. That happens here. But then this isn’t entirely a novel counting on its mystery, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like a betrayal. It retains a feeling of inevitability that all mystery should have at the end. Or is that noir? haha. That fits for this book, too. A southern noir.
All that being said, despite doing many things very well, I wasn’t all that excited by or invested in this novel. It seems like the kind of thing that would be made into a TV show these days. It felt very familiar that way. The characters feel real. But when taking on issues of race, for example, it feels like the author believes he is saying something new when all he really points out is racism is common place in the south and that it is bad, which isn’t new information. A plot twist resting on race was far from mind blowing or original. One of the affected characters didn’t even seem that surprised.
It’s a reliable novel. Serviceable. I can’t imagine it making anybody a rabid fan of the author though as I said does a good job for the most part.
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I wasn't familiar with this author so I depended on reviews left by other listeners. I was not disappointed. It may move a little slow for some folks but being from the south myself I understood the pace of the story. I highly recommend this book.
I truly enjoyed this story and the performance. It had an interesting setting as well as having very real characters.
Yes. Franklin has a good storytelling ability. His characters matter to me.
I wouldn't say "edge of my seat," but it kept me interested to see the next bend in the road.
Nope. First one.
Really thought the villain was well developed.
Tom Franklin sort of reminds me of William Faulkner. Quirky southern characters who are liable to say or do anything.
I'd already read this book, but wanted to give the audio version a whirl and it was as good as I remember. The narrator gave a killer performance and the book is as timeless as ever. Great job all the way around.
I would highly recommend this audiobook. It's such a facinating story that spans generations and years. It's thought fully developed with a unique angle - not like anything read. You will long wonder how some characters existed with their trials. It's heartwarming story about men that do the right thing. See I told you it had a unique angle.
It's not compariable to any other book I have read. It flows so easily. You will jump into it and not be able to put it down. At the end you will be satisfied in the ending while wishing for a saga.
They are all just wonderful. From the few female to each and every character has a differrent and unique personality that youu will love or love to hate.
I purchased this in a book sale months and months ago. I can't believe I didnt read it sooner for once I started it - it was all I wanted to do for the next two days.
The title of this book doesnt do it justice. It's a wonderful story that I can promise you that you will enjoy and think about long after it's over.
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