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 count 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.
My take: 2.5 looks
I am not sure what I expected from this. For some reason, I thought this was going to be an oddity, like John Dies at the End by David Wong or anything by Jasper Fforde. Instead, it was a straight-up mystery with a pretty heavy dose of character study. I had put off reading this because of my expectations, but was completely wrong.
Larry has really gotten the shaft in life. He has suffered for years for being different, and more years for being a silent victim. Son of an ass of a father and a ghost of a mother, he was destined to fail.
Silas has taken advantage of every opportunity and has succeeded in life, at least on the outside. Son of a single black woman, he was the typical success story in rural Mississippi (the reason for the name of the book).
Franklin, as an Alabama native, writes perfectly of the underbelly of the South's redneck white trash population. He has it down to a "t". It would have been nice to see this balanced with the more genteel side of Southern living, but that may have been too prosaic for the author. Instead, it felt like a story awash in Southern stereotypes, that I (as an Alabama resident) don't see in my particular corner of the world (thank goodness).
If Larry has been in law enforcement, I would have been reading In the Heat of the Night. And probably liked it better.