Mysterious Book Report No. 62

How’s your summer going?  Doesn’t it seem amazing how fast it goes by compared to how long it takes to get here?  It seems like forever when we’re waiting for the leaves to green up compared to how long they stay that way.  All too soon, they put on their fall colors, drop away and it’s back to cold weather, football and hockey, basketball and skiing.  Oh, and of course . . . it’s back to school time.  School is, as Dickens sort of put it, the best of times or the worst of times, depending on which student, and at what time, one asks.  For some, the popular and outgoing ones, school years are some of their best.  But for others, the shy, introverted and lonely ones, school is pure hell . . . years of physical and mental abuse.

This week’s Mysterious Book Report, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, (William Morrow, 2010, $24.99, 274 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-059466-4) by Tom Franklin, is about one of those students.  The odd one out . . .the forgotten and overlooked . . . the poor kid who’s shunned, alone, afraid and often bullied.  His name is Larry Ott and he’s all grown up now, still living in the same little hardscrabble town in southeast Mississippi, and still friendless . . . shunned by everyone in town.  But it wasn’t always like that.  As a youngster, Larry, a white boy, had a friend.  His name; Silas “32” Jones, a black boy, whose life becomes defined by baseball, while Larry’s is defined by the disappearance of a girl named Cindy Walker . . . Larry Ott’s only date in high school.  A girl who disappeared while on that date . . . a girl whose body has never been found in the intervening 20 years . . . a girl presumed dead at the hands of Larry Ott.  The lantern lamp of suspicion has never been removed, and Larry goes about his daily routine as a prisoner in a cage without bars erected by the court of public opinion.

After another young woman disappears, Larry Ott is ambushed as the book opens and he lies in a coma at a local hospital.  The story is told in a series of flashbacks through the eyes of Silas, his one time friend, who’s now a local law enforcement officer.  As the old and new mysteries unfold however, we learn there is much more to Larry and Silas’s stories than we were first led to believe.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is complex, intellectual and certainly blurs the line between literature and genre (mystery) fiction.  That said however, although I feel that the plotting and arc of the story are exemplary; I think the pacing is slow because of the amount of minutiae.  A minor criticism to be sure, but one that detracted from my enjoyment of the book, the rest of which is highly recommended.

Your local library also comes with high recommendations.  It’s a great place to make new friends, meet new ideas and learn about anything.  That’s why those librarians are so smart; they read a lot.  How about you?  Are you reading much?  If not . . . why not?

The Neversink Chronicles is still available at Cannie D’s in Neversink, the Time and the Valleys Museum Store in Grahamsville, the Little Store up in Roscoe, and now at Peter’s Market in Napanoch.  They’re signed first editions too.

*** New Flash***

My new book, The Whim-Wham Man, a coming of age and murder mystery is due out in the next two weeks.  If you go to rhyolitepress.com and order before Aug 30th, you’ll get 20% off the retail price of $15.00 and 50% off of the normal $5.00 shipping and handling charge.  Pay just $14.50 instead of $20.00 using safe, secure Paypal.  Don’t like computers?  Get the same deal for $14.50 check or money order @ Rhyolite Press, P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO  80901 or call 719-203-5265 for credit card orders.  But hurry . . . this offer absolutely positively expires on August 30th, 2012 at midnight.  I’ll see you next week with another MBR.

                                                                        –JDM