Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

For the linkphobic: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter begins quite literally with a bang–Larry Ott, a Caucasian reclusive auto mechanic is shot by an unknown assailant and rushed to the hospital, while Silas “32” Jones is the police officer assigned to investigate not only the attack on Ott but also the disappearance of a local ‘girl’ and the local marijuana dealer. (Indeed, he is the only police officer for the community, so it’s inevitable.) Suspicion for the girl’s disappearance naturally falls on Larry Ott; twenty years earlier, a girl disappeared after going to the drive-in with him and despite there being no concrete evidence to prove thus, everyone assumes that Ott killed her and hid her somewhere in the woods. Naturally, having spent twenty years suspecting him of one girl’s disappearance, the community automatically assumes that Ott is responsible for this girl’s as well, despite there being less connection between the two people. The story alternates between now–the investigation into the attack on Ott and the disappearance of the girl–and then–the adolescence of Ott and Jones, their friendship and the events leading up to the disappearance of Ott’s ‘girlfriend’.

Given that the book is set in Mississippi, you know that the relationship between the two boys cannot last. Given that it’s Southern Gothic, though not in quite the same sense as Faulkner and Welty, you know that the explanation for why it didn’t last won’t be as simple as “Gee, it’s the deep South. What did you expect?” and sure enough, a plot twist comes to life during the denouement of the novel.

I wasn’t crazy about the book but this time due primarily to the general tone of the book; this is dudelit pure and simple, and a particularly, er, manly type at that (trying to keep the blog language family friendly). That said, it’s one of the best written modern works of adult fiction I’ve read for this blog; it’s well plotted, well characterized, and not too over the top for what can be a thoroughly flamboyantly stagey genre(s)–thriller, police procedural, Southern Gothic, your choice. Franklin’s a decent writer: I can tell the different people apart without having to check their names, I can envision Ott’s house and garage, Jones’ relationships with his lady friend and his coworkers without feeling as if I’ve been clubbed about the psyche with the author’s opinion of how I should feel and what I should see. This one, I could wholeheartedly recommend it to others!


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