There’s little argument that the American South produces the best storytellers in the nation, and best-selling author, Tom Franklin, certainly counts as one of those. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a mystery full of past sins rising from the grave, forbidden friendships and betrayals—in short the soil of small town Mississippi life.
Larry Ott, white, lives the life of an isolate and did so even before he was accused, though not convicted, of the kidnap and murder a missing girl years ago. Silas “32” Jones is a black success story. A star basketball player in high school, he went on to college and has returned as town constable. But the successful black and lonely isolate white share a past. When another girl goes missing, Larry immediately becomes the suspect. Each character carries a piece of the truth of both murders and as the stories of old and new crimes unfold, the threads tangle with each other and new violence tests each man’s character and loyalties.
It’s an engrossing mystery but the master storyteller makes it much more than that. The twists in plot will jolt even the most seasoned mystery reader, but it is the characters and passions grown of Mississippi soil that stay with you.
PS: In case you are interested, the title (according to the author) arises from a technique used to teach young Mississippians how to spell the name of their state: “M…i…crooked letter, crooked letter, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, hunchback, hunchback, i.” Connecting that to the story should be an intriguing game for all of us. Just visualize all of those crooked letters and mis-formed people steaming in southern heat.
Again I urge other readers to respond and comment on their reading of the book.