“Please, bring a special friend for Larry,” says Larry’s mother when she prays, despairing for her son’s lonely existence and wishing better for him. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a good, if somewhat predictable, mystery story that’s elevated by the quality of the prose and the character profiles of its two leads.
From Goodreads: “In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.”
Tom Franklin’s voice is very, very good in this book. I felt immediately immersed in the environment he created, and his descriptions are as concise as they are evocative. The prose makes for an easy read that still feels substantive. The plot itself is very simple, so while I wouldn’t say the various reveals are completely telegraphed, the actual mystery wasn’t very suspenseful. I was certainly curious as to how it would play out, but it was constructed more as a way to clear Larry’s name than as a true whodunit.
Overall, this is a pretty good quick summer read. It does dabble a bit in racial issues, so if reading the n-word isn’t for you then that’s possibly the only reason that I wouldn’t recommend this book.