From Goodreads: Tom Franklin’s extraordinary talent has been hailed by the leading lights of contemporary literature—Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Lee Smith, and Dennis Lehane. Reviewers have called his fiction “ingenious” (USA Today) and “compulsively readable” (Memphis Commercial Appeal). His narrative power and flair for character-ization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.
Now the Edgar Award-winning author returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far—an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.
You know, I tend to get nervous when a novel has a lot of hype around it before I read it. I worry it won’t live up to the fuss or I’ll hate it and people will wonder what the heck is wrong with me. So, after reading review after review about what an incredible book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was I started it holding my breath. On top of that I was listening to it, audio book being a medium I’m still not 100% comfortable with.
Well, holy cow, from the first sentence I was whisked away. Simply put, this is an incredible book. The writing makes me realize what artists authors are. They paint amazing pictures with words so artfully put together I can see the image they’re describing without even trying.
The characters in this novel are so well written there was never a doubt that they were who they were or about how they were reacting to the situations. Silas and Larry were so real to me I found myself disappointed when one didn’t live up to my faith in him and my heart broke for the other when all that actually happened to him was reveled.
One of the surprising things about this mystery, for me, was even though I kind of figured out what happened before the details were laid out, I still wanted to know what happened. I was nervous when each was in danger and relieved when truths came out. I’m sure my neighbors were wondering what I listening to when I went out of my daily walk with this playing in my MP3 player and would practically talk back to the story. I’m sure my expression went for shock, to outrage, to concern all while walking down my street.
Now a few words about the audio version; It was read by Kevin Kenerly and he did a really job. I could instantly tell the difference between each of the characters. He did a nice job on the women’s voices, which I think is always the hardest part of audio books, when the reader has to “act” the opposite sex. It wasn’t a problem here.
I’ve only just started listening to audio books again and I find I still have a hard time following along. This first book I listened to this year was Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg, which I’ve read before so following along wasn’t really an issue. When my son started having trouble at school and we looking for different ways to help him along we found he followed better and remember more when he heard things as opposed to reading them. He hears something once and it’s in his vault for good. When he reads it’s gone almost as soon as he read it, though this is getting better the more he reads. I’m finding I’m the exact opposite. I read something and I can remember it for what seems like forever but when I listen it just slips away. Like my son is getting better as I use the skill so by the end of this year I should be an audio book pro.
I can’t recommend this book enough, there’s a reason why it tops so many lists. I’ve checked out Tom Franklin’s back catalog and found he has two previous novels-Hell at the Breech and Smonk (great title)-and both sound very interesting to me. He also has a collection of short stories titled Poachers. I look forward to reading more by this author and I have my fingers crossed he might consider bringing back Larry and Silas and the folks of Chabot, Mississippi.