The novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin begins on the day Larry Ott is shot.
Larry is a middle-aged man who lives alone in rural Mississippi. He is driving home to get a photo album to bring to his mother at her nursing home. He is in a hurry but also worried about speeding because the local police are watching him closely. A young girl called Tina Rutherford has disappeared, and Larry is considered a person of interest in the case.
When Larry enters his house, he finds a man wearing the monster mask Larry has owned since he was a child. The man tells Larry everyone knows what Larry did and shoots him.
Silas Jones is the chief constable of a nearby rural Mississippi town, and he is searching for Tina Rutherford. While looking near a creek, he finds a man’s body. Roy French, the Chief Investigator, and some paramedics, including Angie, Silas’s girlfriends, also arrive at the scene to inspect and remove the body.
French tells Silas he searched Larry Ott’s house for evidence in the Tina Rutherford case but found nothing. He says he had planned to go again but saw Larry’s mechanic shop was closed. Silas, who used to know Larry in school, finds that strange as Larry’s shop is always open. Silas remembers that when he was in school, Larry went on a date with Cindy Walker, who then disappeared and was never found. The local people suspect Larry murdered her, even though he was never proven guilty. Silas tells Angie to go by Larry’s house later.
Back in March 1979, almost 30 years before the day when Larry is shot, Larry is on the way to school in his father’s car. His father, Carl, sees two people on the side of the road and stops to let pick them up and take them to school. The woman, Alice, whom Carl seems to know, introduces Larry to her son, Silas. Larry realizes Alice and Silas live in his father’s old hunting cabin. Larry tells his mother about the two. Larry’s mother decides to drive Larry to school one morning. She sees Alice and Silas on the side of the road and stops to give them two coats, saying Alice never minded using other people’s things. Alice and Silas never wait for Carl after that.
Larry misses Silas, so he takes one of his father’s old guns and heads through the woods to the old hunting cabin. He teaches Silas how to use a gun. Larry gives Silas his gun, saying he will ask for it back...