“Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” by Tom Franklin, is a compelling novel that readers will not want to put down. Murder mystery and plot move right along, and the characters are real and human.
The “crooked letters” are from an old children’s way to learn to spell “Mississippi”: M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I- crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I.
Two boys who were friends in rural Mississippi at age 14 who were torn apart by circumstances are now back in their home town. As a child, Larry Ott had been a book-worm. Asthmatic and, for a while, a stutterer, he was not the son his father had wanted. Kids picked on him at school, and he became very much a loner.
A black family, the Joneses, lived in a wood shack on the Ott property. Larry and Silas, the boy who lived there, became friends. Neither of their parents approved, but the boys would sneak out and play together anyway. Events happened and they drifted apart. Larry remained a loner and dropped out of high school. At 16, he went out with a girl, the only date he ever had, and she disappeared that evening. Everyone in town thought he had killed the girl, but they could never prove it. They just avoided “Scary Larry.”
Silas went on to Ole Miss on a baseball scholarship. He did a tour in the army and went to the police academy when he got home and became the town constable.
Now in their early 40s, Larry and Silas have not spoken to one another in 25 years.
When another young girl goes missing, “Scary Larry” is once again the main suspect. As the story unfolds, there are flashbacks to what happened to Larry and Silas’ friendship when they were 14.
Readers are bound to fall in love with both of these men in this moving and heart-warming story about guilt and forgiveness. Tom Franklin won the Edgar Award for “Hell at The Breech.” This novel has the potential to be an award-winner, too.