Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Hey guys, I’m back! I know I’ve been gone a while, but I’m finally reading on a more consistent basis and wanted to share the book I finished last week.

This one by Tom Franklin had been on my list for over a year. I found it in one of those Pinterest lists of books you wouldn’t be able to put down. Crooked Letter takes place in Mississippi and flips between present-day and flashbacks to the 1970s.

Essentially, it’s the story of a man, Larry Ott, who was suspected of murdering a teenage girl when he was a younger. While he never confessed to the crime, and was never charged, the residents of his town ostracize him. So it’s no surprise that when a young college girl disappears from the county forty years later, Ott is accused of the crime. Silas Jones, the police constable who knew Larry when he was younger, leads the investigation of his former classmate. The two men’s stories intertwine as they discover secrets of their shared past.

That’s all I can tell you without spoiling the book. While I can’t say it was the most thrilling crime novel I’ve ever read, I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who wants a quick read with mostly sympathetic characters.

Publication Info

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. Tom Franklin. William Marrow, 2010.

ISBN:0060594667

274 pages

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Defending Jacob

I realized the other night that I haven’t yet written a review for a work of fiction, so I’ll do a short review of a crime novel I read a few weeks ago. Defending Jacob by William Landay was a quick read- I got through it in two days. Now, I should say that I don’t frequently read crime/mystery novels; while I love police procedural t.v. dramas (I’m looking at you, Law and Order,) actual crime novels aren’t of particular interest to me, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt if you’re an avid crime reader.

I found Defending Jacob on a Buzzfeed list of books you won’t be able to stop talking about, and while I don’t think it’s that good of a book, I’d still recommend it if you want something to read this weekend.

The book is about ADA Andy Barber’s career and family after his son was accused of murder. Andy questions whether his son is capable of murdering his classmate, while facing his own family history  and coping with being dismissed from his job as assistant district attorney. I found most of the characters to be sympathetic, and the premise of the book is interesting enough that I couldn’t stop reading. I wasn’t blown away by the ending, though- it felt underdeveloped and there was enough foreshadowing throughout the novel that it wasn’t a complete surprise. Other than that, I thought Defending Jacob was a good read- it wasn’t filled with legal jargon and it had the overarching question of how far would a parent go to protect their child.

If you like mysteries and crime novels, is there a particular book you’d recommend for me?

Publication Info

William Landay. Defending Jacob. Delacorte Press, 2012.

ISBN: 0385344228

421 pages

Devil in the White City

I almost never recommend historical books, especially if they’re non-fiction. Mostly because historical non-fiction written is almost always written for historians. While I read a lot of excellent books published by academic presses, I would never tell my friends to read them because, quite frankly, academic reading is much more rigorous than leisure reading.

Erik Larson’s work is the best of both worlds. Seriously. Larson was trained as a historian and a journalist, which means he knows how to dig for evidence and analyze what he finds, and write a narrative. Devil  is actually two stories- the first is of the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the second of H.H. Holmes, America’s first known serial killer. Larson weaves accounts of Holmes’ murders against the backdrop of the designing of the World’s Fair.

The chapters on Holmes are, at times, gruesome, but I found them to be well-balanced with the story of the World’s Fair. This book does have a lot of detail in it, but I could not put it down. If you liked Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, I think you might like this one, although if you’re not a fan of Capote, you might still enjoy the history of the Chicago World’s Fair.

As a side note, have you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? I’ve been trying to read it for over a week, but I keep losing interest. I think the dragging on may be part of his style and important to the book, but I’m not sure I can finish it. What do you think, should I hang in there, or move on to the next book?

Publication Info

Erik Larson. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. Vintage Books, 2004.

ISBN:0375725601

447 pages