Jennifer's Reviews > Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
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's review
May 11, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2011



Set in the small Mississippi town of Chabot, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells the story of two boys turned men—Larry Ott and Silas Jones. On the surface, there seems to be nothing linking the two … but a long history binds the two together in ways that even they don’t fully understand.

Larry—a white boy from a middle class family that owns 500 acres of land and runs the local auto repair shop—has always been a bit of a misfit. With his nose always stuck in a book (usually Stephen King), Larry has never fit in with his peers. His outsider status is solidified in high school when a girl he was on a date with disappeared and was never seen again. This event earned him the nickname “Scary Larry,” and he now lives a solitary existence—ostracized by everyone in the town of Chabot.

Silas—known locally as 32 (the number from his baseball playing days)—is a black boy being raised by a single mother in a shack located on the Ott’s land. After moving to Chabot from Chicago, Silas manages to do what Larry has never managed to do in his whole life—achieve a status and a place within the town, first as a star baseball player and now as the Chabot constable.

Years ago, Silas and Larry were secret friends, until a pivotal moment destroyed their friendship. Although Larry has reached out to Silas on occasion, he has always been rebuffed. When another young girl goes missing, Larry is the first and only suspect. Yet Silas knows that Larry couldn’t be involved … but he can’t quite explain why. As the case of the missing girl and Larry Ott’s fate become more entwined, Silas realizes that he must get involved … even it means dredging up long-buried secrets.


There is a good reason everyone raves about this book. Full of small-town atmosphere and tightly drawn characters, the book manages to create a portrait of two men who, in many ways, are each other’s foil. I loved how Franklin managed to invert the truth of both men in a way that was utterly satisfying. The story moves back and forth between the present day and the past—slowly revealing the truth of each character’s past and present. It seemed like the book was always moving inevitably in the direction it ends up … but the journey was rich and fully developed. I don’t really want to say too much more as I already may have said too much in my description. Just know that you’re getting a richly atmospheric, multi-layered mystery that is as much about the masks we wear in public and who we really are deep down.

About the Narration: Kevin Kenerly did a fantastic job with the narration—creating two fully realized and distinct voices for both Larry and Silas. He made the story come alive, and I found his narration compelling and interesting. When he was reading, I was able to conjure up the images of Chabot, the characters and the events of the story. His narration was top-notch, and I could see that listening to this book on audio might actually enhance the experience.

Recommended for: Mystery fans who enjoy multi-layered and character-driven mysteries with plenty of Southern atmosphere
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