By Tom Franklin

Published October 5, 2010


This atmospheric drama is set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.

When this book came out, it received a lot of praise and excellent reviews.  I wasn’t sure I would be interested because it was a “mystery”, but after seeing multiple reviews, I decided I had wanted to read it.  This book is a mystery novel, but I also thought it was so much more than that.  We didn’t have to read all the gory details about the murders that happened in this story, which I appreciated.    The author took time to develop the characters, the setting and the history of the area.  As I began to read this and the author was describing the area of Tupelo, Mississippi, I was driving through there on my way home from Florida.  As I read about the area, I saw first hand what the author was describing.  He didn’t leave anything out.

I read this book with two other friends and we all loved it.  We had a great discussion as this book has lots of topics to discuss.  The author did such an amazing job giving the character’s depth and we could imagine each one of them.  We learned to love and hate them as well as feel sorry for them.  I have to admit that I was rooting for Larry all along.  I didn’t want to believe that he was responsible for the horrific murders, but you will have to read the book to find out if I was right.

This book is a page-turner and has several twists and moments that will shock you.  I was interested from page one all the way to the end. 

One of my favorite passages from the book was from page 236,

Maybe Larry was wrong about the word friend, maybe he’d been shoved away from everybody for so long all he was was a sponge for the wrongs other people did.  Maybe, after all this time, he’d started to believe their version of him. But no more.”

If you are looking for a rich story, with mystery, murder, and family relationships this should be your next read.  With it being set in the deep south during the 1960’s you can also get a bit of the history from that era.  The author really puts his characters into that setting and gives you a clear picture of the times.

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