When Cindy Walker goes missing in 1982, the people of Chabot, Mississippi blame Larry Ott, the boy who picked her up for a date, but never brought her home. Although never arrested, Larry is shunned by the townspeople, who hate him for what they think he did. Now, twenty-five years later, a second girl disappears. Is Larry, now a loner on the outskirts of town, responsible? Could there have been other girls? Silas Jones, the town constable and once Larry’s boyhood friend, is determined to find out.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a mystery crime story about a town hampered by racism. As boys on their own and running through the woods, it didn’t matter that Larry was white and Silas was black. Now grown men, they are no longer friends, but they share a history that neither completely understands and both have struggled to get past. Years ago, Silas ran and Larry stayed. Now they must overcome massive obstacles and if they do, they must then ask themselves, “Can a broken friendship be fixed?”
I loved this book, which is a great story on many levels, first with an intriguing scenario and a character-driven plot, but second with an important setting, full of moral questions about the impact of decisions and equally of the characters’ action or inaction. Themes of family, friendship, religion and love are prominent, making the book a true literary work as well. No wonder it is an award-winning best-seller!
Franklin jumps between the two time periods and fills in the details regarding Cindy’s disappearance. We learn about Larry and Silas as both boys and men, and begin to understand their relationship to each other as well as to their families. All this is enhanced by a close look at the culture of Chabot, the perspectives of people who perpetuate prejudice and others who try to rise above it. Franklin puts his characters in situations in which they have the chance to step up and make things right and he makes the reader ask, “Is it ever too late to do that?”
With an uncertain, but hopeful finish, this is the type of book that generates thought long after the last page, one of my favorite measures of a great read. While more about the people than the crime, it also stands as a mystery, with a well-paced plot and developments that help tie up the details. I recommend Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter to anyone who likes mysteries, but also to readers of books about conflicted characters.
Want to know more about the author? Click here to read Who’s That Author? Tom Franklin
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