Sara's Reviews > Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
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's review
Oct 18, 2015

it was ok

Unlike the majority of reviewers, I was not bowled over by this book, although I think it's just a matter of taste. I am not one to favour books that are overly descriptive (if a book is described as being "lyrical", I know it's not for me), but all the positive reviews piqued my interest. While the author does paint a picture with his words, I felt that the tendency to describe every moment got to be a bit much - not unlike the ubiquitous kudzu vines that he describes choking the landscape. This tendency to lay it on with a trowel can be found throughout the book, as in his description of night turning into day for example:

"...Larry watched him go, he'd spent the rest of the night on his porch as daylight crept through the trees like an army of crafty boys."

I get that he is establishing a mood, one that is essential to the story, but I think he fell too much in love with his own storytelling. Some of the best advice I ever heard regarding writing was "kill your darlings", and it seems to me that Mr. Franklin had a few too many darlings scampering about.

Aside from the darlings, I also found the story incredibly depressing, to the extent that I wondered why anyone would ever wish to live in that blighted landscape. The "crooked letters" in the title refer to the "S" letters in Mississippi, and in a sense, this story is about that state - that part of the world. Anyone who works in tourism for the great state of Mississippi should be on that book like a chigger on a coon-hound (if that's a thing) to have it removed from store and library shelves post-haste. Of course, I write in jest (perhaps I have a darling or two of my own to kill), but really, Mr. Franklin presents a world that is so cold, so cruel, so jaundiced, so lacking in justice and humanity, that it is hard to believe it could possibly exist. The main character in particular endures emotional and mental hardships that are almost mythic in nature.

The mystery itself isn't terribly mysterious, but it is well plotted. While the reader is well aware of who the culprit is, there are enough twists to make the story interesting, but it is unclear what motivates this character, and the denouement is unsatisfactory. There is also the subject of the cold case that is shrugged off at the end when a revelation is made that changes the known facts in a big way. Why wasn't there an attempt to determine what did happen to the victim, perhaps look for her body in the ruins of her last known residence, and why would everything be settled just on the say-so of Silas, an individual of questionable character?

While I do not like this particular product, I do respect Mr. Franklin as a writer of talent and insight and I will look for his other books (but not in a big hurry to do so).

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