Title: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Author: Tom Franklin
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
When a girl disappears in a small town in Mississippi, suspicion falls on Larry Ott. After all, twenty-five years ago, another girl disappeared and the last person who saw her was Larry. Silas Jones, the constable, remembers his complicated childhood friendship with Larry as he tries to determine the truth.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a novel that takes place during two time periods – the present day and the 1970s – in Mississippi. Franklin writes the Southern atmosphere well. The entire novel is thick with humidity, with that soupy weather that seems to define southern summers. It’s incredibly dark and moody, caught up in the secrets, lies, and racial tension present in the town. I can’t begin to describe how wonderfully atmospheric this novel is; it envelops the reader completely from beginning to end.
The two main characters Larry and Silas are well written. Franklin takes his time in developing them; Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter moves at its own, slow pace. This is a novel about people, about the setting, rather than about the plot. Of course, the story is important, but the other elements take precedence. That’s not to say the book is boring, just that it’s very carefully crafted and finely wrought. This isn’t a novel to pick up if you’re looking for a fast-paced, thrilling read.
The mystery that the novel centers around is the disappearance of the two girls twenty five years apart. The entire town believes Larry had a hand in these crimes, but really Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is actually about the relationship between Silas and Larry. The mystery takes a backseat to this complicated and difficult friendship, a friendship that turns into something else entirely. It’s interesting and well-written, and though the big reveal at the end is very predictable, readers will get the sense that they were supposed to figure it out prematurely, that it was Franklin’s intention to craft the novel that way.
This certainly is an interesting novel in terms of plot and characterization, but it’s really Franklin’s beautiful writing and his ability to turn a phrase that make Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter worth reading. I can’t praise the perfect atmosphere that Franklin created highly enough. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for Franklin’s next novel.