“M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humback, I” -How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi
Twenty-five years ago, Larry Ott was out on a date with a young girl. A young girl who disappeared, never to be found. Since then, Larry has always been considered a man to be fearful of, known as “Scary Larry.” The fact that his house is packed with horror books and magazines doesn’t help the situation.
Decades later, another girl is missing and “Scary Larry” becomes a person of interest. He runs an old-fashioned and outdated auto body shop, never with any customers. Despite living as a outstanding citizen all these years, he can’t get over the characterizations put upon him by the other members of the small town.
Silas Jones, now the town constable, was childhood friends with Larry. This friendship was always kept a secret; they barely acknowledged one another in public. Silas is black, Larry white. In a small, Mississippi town, this friendship was always bound to be doomed. Still, the duo find comfort in one another’s friendship and spend their afternoons hunting together. When Larry becomes implicated in the missing girl’s disappearance, their friendship ends.
Silas goes on to become a high school baseball star, leaving Larry behind to become the town weirdo.
Silas attends college and returns to the small town of Chabot, Mississippi and becomes the town constable. Decades later, he still refuses to contact Larry, despite Larry’s frequent messages on his answering machine. Larry insists and pleads for Silas to return his calls, stating he has something important to tell him, something that can’t be discussed over the phone.
In order to solve the case of the missing girl, the daughter of an important businessman, both Larry & Silas must face secrets kept long hidden.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of those books that transcends genres. While it has clear characteristics of crime fiction, I hesitate to define it soley as such. Instead, it has qualities of several genres, dealing with topics such as childhood friendships, small-town secrets, and a clear and evident flavor of Southern fiction.
The book vascillates between the present and the past; the reader is privileged to learn about the childhood that shaped each of the main characters. Silas grew up poor, black & fatherless. He and his mother relied up on the kindness of Larry’s mother to get by. It is my opinion that Larry & Silas would have continued their friendship into adulthood had it not been for a violent altercation between Silas and Larry’s domineering and alcoholic father.
Silas and Larry’s characters are so well-defined, so developed, the reader can’t help but feel they know them. I felt sympathy for both characters: Silas was a poor young man, not gaining the recognition he deserves until he reaches high school and becomes a sports icon. He has to escape the small town to really become something; Larry, the recluse, the avid reader. I think I had more of a connection with him due to our shared love of horror fiction.
I originally read this book when it was released in hardcover last fall. I was happy to be granted the second chance at experiencing this book when I joined this book tour for the paperback release. However, I found that the book never really left me; the characters and the storyline lingered with me all this time. It was a pleasure to “rediscover” Silas & Larry again.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a book to be cherished; Franklin’s writing is truly a work of art. The prose is quite detailed, the setting is so rich with Southern flavor, the reader becomes engaged in the storyline instantly. This is not a book to rush through, however. I found myself rereading passages several times, not because I didn’t comprehend them but because the writing was so skilled, so powerful. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of those books that you set down after reading, only to pick back up again, unable to separate yourself from talent and treasures contained within.
Learn more about Franklin and his other books here. Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops:
Monday, May 23rd: That’s What She Read
Tuesday, May 24th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
Wednesday, May 25th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, May 25th: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, May 26th: Life In Review
Tuesday, May 31st: Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, June 1st: Life in the Thumb
Thursday, June 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, June 7th: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Wednesday, June 8th: Debbie’s Book Bag
Thursday, June 9th: Books and Movies
Friday, June 10th: My Reading Room
Monday, June 13th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, June 14th: Crazy for Books
Wednesday, June 15th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Thursday, June 16th: Unputdownables
Friday, June 17th: Rundpinne
Tags: Crime Fiction, Harper Perennial, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Review