Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

by

Author:  Franklin, Tom

TitleCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Genre:  Mystery, Psychological Suspense, Thriller

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting:  Rural Mississippi

Time Period:  Present Day

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: In the late 1970s in Chabot, MS, two boys come together for a short yet pivotal time in their lives to share a boyhood friendship that neither can acknowledge.  Larry is white, odd and bookish, the son of lower middle class parents.  Silas is black and poor, the son of a single mom moved from Chicago, to a cabin on land owned by Larry’s father.   For one summer, they roam the woods together, and Larry teaches Silas about hunting and fishing.  Larry finally has the friend his mother has prayed for.  When school starts, the lines of segregation are drawn and the boys lead separate lives.  Larry becomes ostracized as the class nerd, while Silas, who excels at baseball, becomes the high school star.  One night Larry takes a popular local girl on a date and she disappears without a trace.  Although never formally accused, Larry, with his peculiar ways is presumed guilty.  Twenty-five years pass.  “Scary Larry” leads a solitary existence shunned by the local townspeople, and Silas, who went off to school, has returned to Chabot as the local police constable.  Their paths cross again when another girl goes missing and all eyes turn to Larry as the obvious suspect.  It is up to Silas to investigate Larry’s involvement,  and in the process, he is forced to remember boyhood secrets he has tried so hard to forget.   Crooked Letter Crooked Letter is a beautifully written, poignant story told in flashbacks.  Although there is a mystery element in the plot, the book is really a heart wrenching character study of Larry and Silas, and how actions and circumstances in their past have had devastating effects on their lives. It is the story of friendship, loneliness, racism, good and evil, and having the courage to make things right no matter what the cost.   The author, Tom Franklin, is a master at setting the mood in this book, which reeks of southern Gothic, wasted lives, small town tragedies and decaying secrets.  He moves the story along at a languid, southern pace, but introduces intriguing plot elements and characters that make it hard to put the book down.  The language is wonderfully authentic, and the southern dialogue perfectly fits the story.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, with its powerful theme of forgiveness and redemption, is a book that will resonate with the reader long after the story has ended.

Subject Headings:  Mississippi, segregation, murder mystery, psychological fiction, police investigations, rural South, Nero migration, racial issues, southern fiction

Appeal:  Foreshadowing, flashbacks, poignant, heart breaking, touching, atmospheric, emotional, slow paced, rich character development, complex plot, suspenseful, compelling, thought provoking, engaging, hopeful.

3 terms that best describe this book:  Atmospheric, poignant, thought provoking

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:  Melton A. McLaurin, Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South, authors account of his boyhood in the 1950s set in rural South; Ann Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi, autobiography of author’s struggle to overcome racism in rural South during the 1950s and 1960s;  James C. Cobb, The Most Southern Place on Earth:  The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity, a historic and economic account of life on the Mississippi Delta.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:  Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides, a southern family coming to grips with secrets from their past; Dennis Lehane, Mystic River , psychological suspense also dealing with a murder and someone falsely accused; Stuart Woods, Chiefs, a murder mystery set in the rural South.

Name:  Chris Murray

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