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Saturday, 4 June 2016

Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Tom Franklin

A sense of barrenness and loneliness hits the reader from the very off as you peruse the home and land of Larry Ott, a supposed loner in his rural corner of Mississippi. He very quickly is made to pay for the crime - or crimes - he supposedly by a man in a monster mask.

The man who heads up the investigation is a man called Silas, more commonly nicknamed 32, Flashbacks tell us that the two of them - Silas and Larry - were uneasy friends, though one wouldn't know it at school. Larry is quite often victimised, despite his being the white boy and Silas being black. Larry does his best to fit in and become friends with people, and thinks he comes close to it on Halloween, but further humiliated. It is to his great surprise, then, when a neighbour, Cindy Walker, asks him on a date. This, however, also turns out to be more than it seems and through an unfortunate turn of events, Cindy Walker's disappearance leads to Larry's ostracism.

Though its overarching plot makes it lean towards a crime novel, it could easily be a story about a man overcoming loneliness; a man dealing with racial barriers; or even a story about dysfunctional families and the desire to both please and escape. The desire and cost of friendship is also brought into play, and what happens when one party considers your relationship to be a friendship, but the other party easily forgets and escapes, out of ignorance, cowardice, or carelessness.

Heavy themes are treated deftly; nothing bogs you down too much that you don't want to go on with the story, and it's not until you are a fair way into learning about Larry's backgrounds and few acquaintances that you have any notion of 'whodunnit'. Indeed, it comes as quite a surprise until you remember all you have learned about Larry and the few people he came into contact with.

Overall opinion: it's a bit of everything, really. A great crime plot with elements of racial politics and the importance - and cost - of friendship. Definitely recommended.

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