* Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.
By Tom Franklin.
Oct. 2010. 288p. Morrow, $24.99 (9780060594664).
Rural Mississippi in the 1970s was rife with racial tension, but skin color didn't matter to boyhood companions Silas Jones and Larry Ott. Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother, and Larry, the child of white lower-middle-class parents, were both outsiders, Silas because of his color, Larry because he was quiet and a little odd, his nose always buried in horror novels. The young men's bond strengthened over time, until the night a pretty local girl went on a date with Larry to the drive-in movies and was never heard from again. No body was found and Larry never confessed, but that didn't keep the townspeople from suspecting him. Estranged from his friend, Silas heads off to college in Oxford, Mississippi, and more than 20 years later, returns to take a job as town constable. He sees no reason to contact Larry, who's settled into a lonely existence as a mechanic, unable to escape the relentless whispers and dirty looks. The disappearance of another girl brings the two former friends back together, forcing them to come to terms with buried secrets and dark truths. Edgar Award winner Franklin (Hell at the Breech, 2003) renders luminous prose and a cast of compelling characters in this moody, masterful entry.--Allison Block