The novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin begins with a description of the day when Larry Ott is shot.
Larry is a 41-year-old man who lives alone in rural Mississippi. Larry spends his morning doing chores around his house, feeding the chickens, and getting ready for work. At one point, Larry gets a call from his mother, who lives in a nursing home, asking him to visit, and he hurries home to get a photo album for her and then go see her. Larry is worried about speeding because the local police know his car and watch him closely. The local chief investigator, Roy French, had visited Larry the previous day, telling him he was a person of interest in the disappearance of a local girl called Tina Rutherford.
Larry hurries inside the house to grab his mother’s photo album. He finds someone in his house wearing the monster mask Larry has had since he was a child. The man in the mask tells Larry everyone knows what Larry did. Larry does not have time to say that he did not abduct Tina Rutherford, or Cindy Walker 25 years before, because the man in the mask shoots him. Larry forgives the man because he thinks all monsters are misunderstood.
Silas Jones, nicknamed 32, is the chief constable of Chabot, Mississippi. He is searching for Tina Rutherford near a creek and eventually finds a man’s body. The man is Morton Morrisette, who Silas knew in high school. Chief investigator Roy French arrives to take photos of the scene. Silas’s girlfriend, Angie, who is a paramedic, arrives at the scene with a coroner to remove the body.
Back in the office, French tells Silas he visited Larry and searched his house for evidence in the Tina Rutherford case but found nothing. Silas reveals he knew Larry in school. French says he plans to stop by Larry’s house again to scare him into confessing, but Larry’s mechanic shop was not open when he drove by. Silas finds that strange, as Larry’s shop is always open.
Silas drives to Larry’s garage and remembers that two years before, Larry had left him a voice message to welcome him back in town, but Silas never called him back. Silas knows that Larry’s shop never has any customers because of Larry’s bad reputation. When he was in high school, Larry went to the drive-in theater with a local girl, Cindy Walker, who disappeared immediately after. Everyone suspected Larry was guilty, but Larry never confessed, and the girl’s body was never found. Finding nothing of interest inside Larry’s Garage, Silas leaves to attend to another police matter and tells Angie to check on Larry Ott’s house because Silas has a hunch something might be wrong.
Silas goes to a house where the postwoman reported a snake in a mailbox. Silas meets Irina Mott, who is an attractive woman in her early twenties. When Silas asks Irina if she knows who might have done this, she says three divorced women live in the house, and there are many angry men they had dated who could have put the snake in the house. Silas catches and kills the snake and leaves. Soon after, Silas gets a call from Angie who is at Larry Ott’s house.
Back in March 1979, Larry is on his way to school in his father’s car and notices a black woman and her son not dressed warmly enough on the side of the road. His father, Carl, invites them into his car. The woman, Alice, whom Carl seems to know, introduces Larry to her son Silas. Larry realizes Alice and Silas live in an old hunting cabin on his father’s property. Larry and Silas are in the same grade, and Carl drops them off at school.
When his mother picks him up from school, Larry tells her about the two people he had met that morning. The following days, Carl picks up Alice and Silas and drives them to school every morning, while Larry’s mother asks Larry for details about Alice in the afternoon. When Larry tells her that he thinks Alice lives in the old house on their property, his mother says he will drive Larry to school the next day. When she drives by Alice and Silas, Larry’s mother hands Alice two coats and tells her Alice never minded using other people’s things. Larry and his mother drive off. After that, Alice and Silas never wait for Larry’s father to pick them up again.
Larry thinks that his father never liked him very much as Larry was a sickly child and had an appearance that Carl considered soft and feminine. Carl also thought Larry was bad at all mechanical things so Carl did not let Larry into his auto-repair shop often. Now that Larry told his mother about Alice, his father does not talk to Larry on their drives to school.
One day, Larry takes one of his father’s old guns and heads through the woods to the old house where Silas and Alice live. Larry thinks back to the previous year when he had tried to befriend two boys at school. The boys told Larry he had to call a black girl named Jackie ‘Monkey Lips’ to her face. Larry tried to impress the boys by jumping out of a swing ...