Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

May 19, 2011 Crime Fiction, Harper Perennial, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Review 15

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 17, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0060594675
  • Source: Publisher
  • 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  He runs an old-fashioned and outdated auto body shop, never with any customers.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

    15 Responses to “Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin”

    1. Craig Pittman

      You are so right. This is a brilliant book, with vividly drawn characters and deft writing. I couldn’t put it down but I didn’t want it to end, either.

    2. Beth(bookaholicmom)

      I really need to get my hands on a copy of this book and read it soon. I have read so many great reviews for this book. It must be good if you visited it twice. Thanks for the great review and recommendation.

    3. Laurie C
      Twitter: baystateRA

      I’ve been on the fence about reading this but I think you just talked me into it. I definitely have to get over my resistance to Southern fiction.

    4. Kay

      This is obviously a great book that has been on my TBR for a while. I need to get it read. Thanks for the nudge!

    5. Helen Murdoch

      My review of this book goes up next week, but it’s fun to see what everyone else thinks of it. I think his character development was really good, but I would have liked more on the mystery mid-book

    6. Beth F
      Twitter: BethFishReads

      Fabulous review. The two men and their relationship are at the heart of this book.

    7. Felicia

      Nice review. I enjoyed this book when I read it. I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to follow Larry and Silas a while longer.

    8. Trisha
      Twitter: Trish422

      I just read and reviewed this for the TLC Tour as well and really enjoyed it. The “Southern flavor” certainly added a great deal to the book.

    9. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
      Twitter: age30books

      I like the fact that the book “never really left” you. Add that to your comment that it transcends genres and I think this might be a good read for me as well.

      Thanks for being a part of the tour Jenn. 🙂

    10. Pam (@iwriteinbooks)

      I LIKED this but didn’t totally love it. I liked the people but the writing just didn’t wow me. Love that everyone else loves it, though!

    11. Susan

      Thank you for the review. I have seen this book all over cyberspace. Our book store, in Litchfield Beach, SC is hosting him and another author for a literary lunch. I am so glad that you reviewed it before I decided to go or not. Thank you for posting.

    12. Laura

      I’ve run across this title a few times and it caught my attention from remembering the ditty as a kid. I hadn’t read a review of it however, but your review, especially the praise for the writing, has me putting it on the TBR pile asap!