Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel, is a story about two friends struggling to forgive one another for wrongs committed when they were children. The story is set in rural Mississippi and weaves between the late 1970s and today. In the late 1970s Larry Ott, a young white boy in a lower- middle class family, and Silas “32” Jones, the son of a poor, single black mother, find each other one day when Larry’s father offers them a ride. Secretly they kept their friendship going until one night Larry takes Cindy Walker on a date and she never returns. Her body was never found and Larry never admitted to her murder but the entire town and surrounding areas labeled him as “Scary Larry” and believed him to be a murder.
Twenty-five years later, Larry is an outcast from society and forced to live a solitary life. Silas returns to Mississippi as the constable but never reconnects with Larry. For the most part no one bothers with Larry until another local girl goes missing and immediately everyone believes that Larry has struck again. It is when bodies start to show up and Larry, always at Ottomotive never makes it to work one day that the two men are brought back together and the truth that was long hidden finally is revealed.
This is the first crime drama that I read where I did not immediately know “who did it” after only reading the first few chapters. I was engaged with the story after the first chapter. While the pace was slow and meandering it fit the mood of the town that Franklin tried to portray in the novel. I am typically not a reader who enjoys novels with violence and murder in them, but this one was not gory and dealt more with the feelings of people after crimes than explaining the gory details of the crime, therefore making it a more engaging read and worth the time.
As for as the downfalls of the novel, many do not like the pace of the book. Yes this book is not action packed and at times not a page turner, it meanders and deals with the psychology of characters. So if you are looking for an action packed crime novel you may want to pass this one by. Also the story seemed to fizzle out in the last couple of chapters leaving with an ending that was not as good as it could have been. My biggest grip and the reason this book received four of the five stars is that the major issue in this book is never publicly resolved. We find out whether or not Larry killed Cindy Walker and we are set to have a huge public drama, but it never happens. The ending is uneventful in respects to the Cindy Walker case and I thought Franklin could have done more with this plot point.
Downfalls aside this book is a good read and worth your time if you enjoy character self reflections, stories about boyhood friends, or a good mystery.
“Time she gets off work she don’t do nothing but sit in front of the TV watching reality.” (Kindle Location 313)
“Wallace’s visits had shown him that being lonesome was its own fast, that after going unnourished for so long, even the foulest bit could remind your body how much it needed to eat. That you could be starving and not even know it.” (Kindle Location 2768-69)