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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter Paperback – 1 Jul 2011

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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 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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)

Book Description

Universally lauded, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter won the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anderton on 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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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 Oct. 2010
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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Maxine Clarke VINE VOICE on 10 Nov. 2011
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 May 2012
Format: Paperback
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a slow burner of a novel that never really roars into fire, but rather sizzles along intensely from start to finish. Which suited me just fine; this was a book to savour. Like Daniel Woodrell, Franklin immerses the reader in the landscape, people and rhythms of rural America; its small town politics and social relations, the poverty and racism, the slowly decaying buildings and half-tamed wilderness. Indeed, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a masterclass in Country Noir - atmospheric, understated, dark, humane. It is a story that makes its readers reflect on life, how we treat each other, and how we're wrapped up in a contingent, relational set of values and interactions. The plotting was excellent with just the right balance of back story, historical flashbacks and contemporary unfolding. Larry, Silas and the other characters are very well realised, the dialogue authentic, and the scenes and social relations realistic. The childhood bullying, marginalisation and eventual isolation of Larry in adulthood is very nicely done. I thought the book might rise to a crescendo, but Franklin keeps the understated and humaneness of the story consistent to the end avoiding unnecessary clichés and leaving a nice sense of open closure. Before reading the book I thought the title was a little clunky. On finishing it, I think it works well to capture the crooked twining of Larry and Silas. Overall, a very fine piece of storytelling that lends itself well to movie adaptation.
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