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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter [Paperback]

Tom Franklin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2011

Amos, Mississippi, is a quiet town. Silas Jones is its sole law enforcement officer. The last excitement here was nearly twenty years ago, when a teenage girl disappeared on a date with Larry Ott, Silas's one-time boyhood friend. The law couldn't prove Larry guilty, but the whole town has shunned him ever since.

Then the town's peace is shattered when someone tries to kill the reclusive Ott, another young woman goes missing, and the town's drug dealer is murdered. Woven through the tautly written murder story is the unspoken secret that hangs over the lives of two men - one black, one white

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a masterful crime novel, sizzling with deep Southern menace, and distinguished by brilliant plotting and unforgettable characters.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (1 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330533568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330533560
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Tom Franklin's heart-tuggingly melancholic Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was a standout slice of beautiful writing. Superb dialogue, scuffed social realism and painterly description bring alive the Mississippi backwater where the tangled history between ostracised Larry Ott and popular police officer Silas Jones is exposed by the disappearance of a girl. Franklin's powerfully imagined characters are captivating, and the sadness of the story indelibly stains your soul. (Metro -Books of the Year)

This award winning crime novel that invited comparisons with To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of white and black boyhood friends in rural Mississippi, separated by an apparent crime that changes their lives. A beautifully crafted thriller that explores the nature of friendship and bigotry. (Financial Times - Books of the Year)

Guilt suffuses the pages of Mississippi author Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter as well. Franklin's prose is startlingly beautiful, the novel worth reading purely for his evocation of Mississippi. But what sticks at the end is Franklin's shattering, heart-breaking depiction of loneliness. A deserving winner of the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year. (Observer - Best Books of the Year)

Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter deservedly won the Crime Writers' Association Golden Dagger for the year's best crime novel. It's a dark, brooding, beautifully written story of a cross-racial friendship dominated by two mysteries nearly two decades apart . . . Franklin's portrayal of small-town paranoia and racial politics is superb, as is his moving treatment of his main, damaged, characters. (The Times - Best Crime Books of the Year)

Elegantly plotted, deftly characterised, superbly written, not a word out of place. (Guardian)

Beautiful writing, a spot-on sense of place, wickedly funny dialogue, and an emotionally potent story charge this highly original, literary crime offering. (George Pelecanos)

A new Tom Franklin novel is always a reason to get excited, but Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is more a cause for celebration. What a great novel by a great novelist. (Dennis Lehane)

Long after the other 75 novels of suspense you've read this year merge in your memory, you'll vividly recall this novel. Franklin has written not just a thriller of the first order, but a very fine novel, indeed. (Richard Russo)

This harrowing tale, told with ease and control, tracks back and forth across the adult lives and harsh schooldays of two Southern boys . . . Among the tensions in the book are humiliating childhood incidents and countervailing adult insights slow learning of and from early crimes and misdemeanours? It's a literary crime-mystery for dark evenings. (Irish Times)

This book will have you enthralled for it is more than just another crime novel. Written in two timeframes, it explores the relationship between two young boys, the nature of suspicion and the solving of a mystery... The characters are engaging and there is just enough menace in the writing to keep you turning the pages. (Press Association)

This taut thriller, based around two murders 20 years apart, skilfully explores issues of race, friendship and class in rural America. Franklin has written a meticulously unravelled tale of dark family secrets that enthralls to the last paragraph. (Waterstone’s Book Quarterly)

From the Back Cover

'Superb. Dark, brooding, beautifully written' The Times Books of the Year

Amos, Mississippi, is a quiet town. Silas Jones is its sole law enforcement officer. The last excitement here was nearly twenty years ago, when a teenage girl disappeared on a date with Larry Ott, Silas's one-time boyhood friend. The law couldn't prove Larry guilty, but Amos's residents have shunned him ever since.

Then the town's peace is shattered when someone tries to kill the reclusive Ott, another young woman goes missing, and the town's drug dealer is murdered. Woven through the tautly written mystery is the unspoken secret that hangs over the lives of two men - one black, one white.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year, is a masterful novel, sizzling with deep Southern menace.

'A beautifully crafted thriller. This award-winning crime novel invited comparisons with To Kill A Mockingbird' Financial Times Books of the Year

'Franklin's prose is startlingly beautiful . . . But what sticks at the end is Franklin's shattering, heartbreaking depiction of loneliness' Observer Books of the Year

'Beautiful writing, a spot-on sense of place and an emotionally potent story charge this highly original, literary crime offering' George Pelecanos

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb page-turner 17 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback
I've never written a review before but this book has moved me to do so. It was recommended to me by an American lady whom I met on holiday - we swapped British and USA authors. This is a really memorable book - I won't go into the nitty gritty as Gail Cooke has captured the essence so well and articulately in another review. What I will say that it's such a cleverly written novel and reveals twists and turns on a need-to-know basis that there's always something exciting happening. The characters are well-drawn and believable - the main characters have foibles unlike the characters in many bestsellers. I couldn't put this book down and it remained with me for days I urge you to read it.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
"The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house." With the first sentence it's clear that CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER will be a humdinger of a thriller. What it takes two or three pages to realize is that not only is it a first-rate thriller, but also a beautiful, trenchant observation of rural Mississippi some 30 years ago. Tom Franklin's Southern dialogue is pinpoint perfection, his scenes painterly, bringing to our mind's eye Chabot, a small decaying town and its inhabitants, so vivid it is as if we were seeing everything and everyone in wide screen color.

Yet it is the story that holds us as it is told through the eyes of Larry and Silas, alternating between the days of their youth and adulthood. As a boy Larry is a loner, ostracized and bullied by his classmates because all he does is read (Stephen King and other horror stories), belittled by his father, Carl, whom Larry understood to like "most everyone except him. From an early bout of stuttering, through a sickly, asthmatic childhood, through hay fever and allergies, frequent bloody noses, glasses he kept breaking, he'd inched into the shambling, stoop-shouldered pudginess of the dead uncles on his mother's side." Called "Scary Larry" by schoolmates he was not a pretty picture, yet he remained a gentle soul.

Each night when his mother prayed with him at bedtime she asked for a friend for Larry, someone just for him. And then then an unlikely friend appeared - Silas, an African-American son of a poor single mother who worked two jobs. Their friendship was brief, just a few months, ending when Larry had his first date. He took a girl to a drive-in movie, and she apparently disappeared.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Maxine Clarke VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This is a marvellous book; one that, after you have read it, makes you want to go out and buy multi-copies to give to all your friends for Christmas, and one which inspires the sentiment: "if you only read one novel this year, make it this one". Since its original publication in the USA, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter has been a bestseller as well as being extremely well reviewed. I hadn't paid it any attention, though, until it won this year's CWA Gold Dagger award the day before I spotted a copy in my local library - so I thought I'd give it a try.

The novel is set in rural Mississippi, telling the tale, switching back and forth in time, of two boys - Silas Jones, a baseball player who becomes a poorly paid traffic cop, and Larry Ott, an ostracised countryman and car mechanic. The first chapter pulls the reader in straight away, describing Larry's lonely lifestyle in his parents' house; his childhood memories of family tensions; the jobs he's devised at home and "work"; and his strange welcoming of what seems to be a certain death.

The story unfolds of Larry's past as he grew up in the impoverished hamlet of Chabot, which boasts a lumber mill and not much else in terms of employment prospects. Larry's father runs Ottomotive, a car repair shop, but is disappointed in his son's lack of mechanical ability and treats him as if he's a wimp because he is always reading (largely horror stories and comics). Larry is very close to his mother, but never manages to make friends at school. His parents have a few hundred acres of land, which do not seem to be used for anything agricultural apart from supporting some chickens. The nearest cabin is owned by Cecil Walker, another drunk who is on permanent disability after a long-ago accident at the mill.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter," an Edgar Award Nominee for best novel, is the latest crime novel from Tom Franklin, already an Edgar Award winner, author of the highly-thought of Hell at the Breech, Smonk: Or Widow Town and Poachers. It is set in the author's native American South, in a small town in deepest Mississippi, not that far, I imagine, from Oxford, MI, where Franklin teaches at the University of Mississippi. It offers lots of Southern Gothic, not to mention southern-fried menace, to its readers. And, oh, yes, southern children are, according to the author, taught to spell Mississippi as, "M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I."

In the 1970s, Amos, MI is a quiet rural town, with Silas "32" Jones, son of a poor, black, single mother, as its lone law enforcement officer. As a rule, not much happened here. But twenty years or so ago, during Jones' high school years-- he shone at baseball,"32" was his number--the teenage Cyndy Walker disappeared after a date to the local drive-in movie with the widely disliked and despised Larry Ott, child of the white working class. At the time, Silas and Larry were friends, in secret, as even interracial friendship was not tolerated at the time. Cyndy's body has never been found, nor has any evidence to prove that Larry killed her: nevertheless, the entire town has assumed Larry's guilt, and has shunned him.

Larry, who inherited his father's garage, has spent many years suffering in lonely solitude, become reclusive.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, touching
I loved this book. It has a clever plot, which calls into question the usual cliche that the good are beautiful and charming, the bad are ugly. Read more
Published 5 months ago by janbay
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
What a page turner this book is. The story & characters will stay with me for a long time in to the future. Read more
Published 5 months ago by T. L. Plumptre
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good read
An excellent page turner, beautifully written. A crime novel, but so much more. Totally vivid small town Mississippi life and believable, complex characters. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Helen Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
I'd not previously read anything by Tom Franklin but this was given to me by a friend, who had highly recommended it. Larry & Silas are growing up in a small Mississippi town. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Lorna
4.0 out of 5 stars great story , well told.
very interesting story based around 1927 flooding of the delta of Mississippi. unputdownable.. I will read other of his books , no doubt.
Published 8 months ago by yoyo yoga
4.0 out of 5 stars Crooked Letter, Crooked Story
This book is Southern, evocative and dark; just what I was in the mood for. What starts as a standard detective/cop story turns into an in-depth tale of honestly portrayed... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ration Nations
4.0 out of 5 stars Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
I found it an interesting story, if a little difficult to get round the dialect/idiom. I would recommend the seller for their quality and speed of dispatch.
Published 9 months ago by Mr. G. M. Ashley
5.0 out of 5 stars Social realism, a gripping mystery and beautifully written
Larry Otts and Silas Jones are two boys growing up in Mississippi. Silas is black and Larry is white but they have many things in common, both are only children and are finding it... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Plucked Highbrow
5.0 out of 5 stars Crooked letter crooked letter
From the first page to the last, compelling reading, a realistic version off how life must have been when slavery was abolished, and a good story line to boot.
Published 10 months ago by brenny
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read
Atmospheric. Raises complex & ambiguous issues, feelings & situations. Fascinating main characters. A really good read. Bit still not sure I understand the title!
Published 10 months ago by Mrs J M Camp
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