Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Reprint edition)
Publish Date: May 17, 2011
Paperback, 304 pages 
Fiction, Literary Suspense

My Review 
Why I read this:  I heard lots of good things about this book when it first came out and wanted to read it, but never did.  So it was on my must-read list when the TLC Tours book list came around.

My Thoughts: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a definite thriller but in a much more subtle nature than a lot of thrillers out there right now.  This one's thriller aspect is based on secrets which are peeled away little by little and keep the reader guessing.  As each layer peeled away I learned something I didn't expect to learn and loved it.  The book kept me enthralled from the first page to the last page.

Characters dominate this book.  You have the white man/white boy, Larry who everyone in the county thinks kidnapped a girl, raped her and killed her 25 years earlier and got away with it.  You also have the black man/black boy, Silas who was the town's success story the boy who made it to Ole Miss playing baseball and then returns home to be a Constable in a town that still seems to be in the 1960s with their race relations.  I like how Mr. Franklin creates the characters, each having their own lives that intertwine for a little while.  I like their differences and both of their easy-going manners.  I think they typify most people.  Neither are racist, though they could be, one is southern through and through and one grew up for a big part of his life in Chicago, but down deep they are similar and I like that.

I think the town/county is also a setting.  The book is based around secrets the characters holds, but the setting is important too, I just don't think the book would work as well if it was set anywhere but in the south.  The south gives the right feel to the book.  I also like the fact that Mr. Franklin doesn't vilify the south in this novel.  The people are good or bad, not the area they are from, the south is simply a setting that lends the perfect backdrop to the story.

Mr. Franklin's writing is also intriguing.  He has a way with words that puts you into the characters and visually paints the scenery.  I've never been to rural Mississippi and though I live in the south, I believe coastal North Carolina and Mississippi are two different types of areas but I could see what he was describing when he describes the house, the barn, the cabin in the woods, the small town of Chabot.  It was all clear in my mind as well as the characters themselves.  Mr. Franklin works your imagination to bring you right into the scenery and the book along with the characters.

Some of my favorite parts of this book were Mr. Franklin's writing which I will share here:
He ducked a low vine, wary of snakes. Cottonmouth-moccasins, his mother used to call them. Mean ole things, she'd say.  Big and shiny as a black man's arm, and a mouth as white as the cotton he pick.   (I love this because I have always wondered why they were called cottonmouths and now I know - and the description is so perfect.)
Another example that shows some humor:

Silas said, "Maybe he can't get cable out here."
"He could get a ******* dish" [sorry I didn't want to put the expletive here]
"Guess he reads books instead."
"Reads books."
And a final example showing how remarkable the descriptions are:
Smaller somehow, darker wood, more weathered.  Vines and kudzu had nearly overtaken the place.  It seemed the heart of some struggle, as if the vegetation were trying to claim the structure back into itself, pull it down, the earth suddenly an organic breathing mass underneath.  Silas could almost feel the friction, hear the viscous grumble of digestion.
If you like haunting stories that revolve around secrets.  If you enjoy thrillers with a easy-going pace that builds the tension bit-by-bit.  If you enjoy books that grab you with their characters and don't let you go until the end, then Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is for you.  I am glad I embarked on this journey and will look forward to more of Mr. Franklin's journeys in the future.

My Rating:  4.75/5.0

About the Book:

In the 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32″ Jones were boyhood pals in a small town in rural Mississippi. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, black single mother. But then Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie and she was never seen or heard from again. He never confessed . . . and was never charged.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry lives a solitary, shunned existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has become the town constable. And now another girl has disappeared, forcing two men who once called each other “friend” to confront a past they’ve buried for decades.

About the Author: 

Tom Franklin is the author of Poachers, Hell at the Breech, and Smonk. Winner of a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, he teaches in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program and lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife, the poet Beth Ann Fennelly, and their children.

Tom’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 17th: Eclectic/Eccentric
Wednesday, May 18th: Book Journey
Thursday, May 19th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Monday, May 23rd: That’s What She Read
Tuesday, May 24th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
Wednesday, May 25th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, May 25th: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, May 26th: Life In Review
Tuesday, May 31st: Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, June 1st: Life in the Thumb
Thursday, June 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, June 7th: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Wednesday, June 8th: Debbie’s Book Bag
Thursday, June 9th: Books and Movies
Friday, June 10th: My Reading Room
Monday, June 13th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, June 14th: Crazy for Books
Wednesday, June 15th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Thursday, June 16th: Unputdownables
Friday, June 17th: Rundpinne

FTC Information: I received this book from the publisher through TLC Book Tours for an honest review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like my kind of thriller - building slowly but steadily, and based more on the characters.

Glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being on the tour.

Ελλάδα said...

Mr. Franklin takes you into the lives of two friends from past to present seamlessly. From the self-imprisonment of one friend to the secret between them, the heartache and struggles in rural Mississippi come to life on the pages. I couldn't put it down.

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