Raised to pick a pocket before he could walk, Terry Rand cut free from his family after his older brother, Collie, went on a senseless killing spree that left eight dead. Five years later, only days before his scheduled execution, Collie contacts Terry and asks him to return home. Collie claims he wasn’t responsible for one of the murders—and insists that the real killer is still on the loose.
Dogged by his own demons, Terry is swept back into the schemes and scams of his family: His father, Pinsch, a retired cat burglar, brokenhearted because of his two sons. His card-sharp uncles, Mal and Grey, who’ve incurred the anger of the local mob. His grandfather, Shep, whose mind is failing but whose fingers can still slip out a wallet from across the room. His teenage sister, Dale, who’s flirting dangerously with the lure of the family business. And Kimmie, the woman Terry abandoned, who’s now raising a child with Terry’s former best friend.
Terry pieces together the day his brother turned rabid, delving into a blood history that reveals the Rand family tree is rotten to the roots, and the secrets his ancestors buried are now coming furious and vengeful to the surface.
A meditation on how love can confine a person just as easily as it can free him, juxtaposing shocking violence and sly humor, The Last Kind Words is the brilliantly inventive family saga that only a singular talent like Tom Piccirilli could conjure.
Includes a preview of Tom Piccirilli’s next book, The Last Whisper in the Dark.
Praise for The Last Kind Words
“A crime noir mystery as hard-boiled as any in recent memory, recalling the work of Chandler, Pelecanos and Connelly . . . Readers literally will be pinned to their seats until the last page is turned.”—Bookreporter
“At once a dark and brooding page-turner and a heartfelt tale about the ties that bind.”—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Heartbroken
“[A] caustic thriller . . . The characters have strong voices and bristle with funny quirks.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[Piccirilli] deserves a breakout novel, and this just might be it.”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Tom Piccirilli is the award-winning author of Shadow Season, The Cold Spot, The Coldest Mile, A Choir of Ill Children, and many other titles. He’s won two International Thriller Writers Awards and four Bram Stoker Awards, as well as having been nominated for the Edgar, the World Fantasy Award, the Macavity, and Le Grand Prix de L’Imaginaire. A native of Long Island, he lives in Colorado, where he is at work on another novel featuring the Rand family.
Read an Excerpt
I’d come five years and two thousand miles to stand in the rain while they prepared my brother for his own murder.
He had less than two weeks to go before they strapped him down and injected poison into his heart. I knew Collie would be divided about it, the way he was divided about everything. A part of him would look forward to stepping off the big ledge. He’d been looking over it his whole life in one way or another.
A different part of him would be full of rage and self-pity and fear. I had no doubt that when the time came he’d be a passive prisoner right up to the moment they tried to buckle him down. Then he’d explode into violence. He was going to hurt whoever was near him, whether it was a priest or the warden or a guard. They’d have to club him down while he laughed. The priest, if he was still capable, would have to raise his voice in prayer to cover my brother’s curses.
I was twenty minutes late for my appointment at the prison. The screw at the gate didn’t want to let me in because he’d already marked me as a no-show. I didn’t argue. I didn’t want to be there. He saw that I wanted to split and it was enough to compel him to let me stay.
At the prison door, another screw gave me the disgusted once-over. I told him my name, but the sound of it didn’t feel right anymore.
The fake ID I’d been living under the past half decade had become a safe harbor, a slim chance to better myself even though I hadn’t done much yet. I resented being forced to return to the person I’d once been.
The screw made me repeat my name. I did. It was like ice on my tongue. Then he made me repeat it again. I caught on.
Expressionless, he led me off to a small side room where I was frisked and politely asked if I would voluntarily succumb to a strip search. I asked what would happen if I said no. He said I wouldn’t be allowed to proceed. It was a good enough reason to turn around. I owed my brother nothing. I could return out west and get back to a life I was still trying to believe in and make real.
Even as I decided to leave I was shrugging out of my jacket and kicking off my shoes. I got naked and held my arms up while the screw ran his hands through my hair and checked between my ass cheeks and under my scrotum.
He stared at the dog tattoo that took up the left side of my chest, covering three bad scars. One was from when Collie had stabbed me with the bayonet of a tin Revolutionary War toy soldier when I was seven. I got a deep muscle infection that the doctor had to go digging after, leaving the area a rutted, puckered purple.
Another was from when I was twelve and my father sent me up the drainpipe to a house that was supposedly empty. A seventy-five-year-old lady picked up a Tiffany-style lamp and swatted me three stories down into a hibiscus tree. A rib snapped and pierced the flesh. My old man got me into the car and pulled the bone shard through by hand as the sirens closed in and he drove up on sidewalks to escape. The scar was mottled red and thick as a finger.
The last one I didn’t think about. I had made an art of not thinking about it.
The screw took pride in his professional indifference, courteous yet dismissive. But the tattoo caught his attention.
“Your family, you’re some serious dog lovers, eh?”
I didn’t answer. One last time he checked through my clothes for any contraband. He tossed them back to me and I got dressed.
I was taken to an empty visiting room. I sat in a chair and waited for them to bring Collie in. It didn’t matter that there was a wall of reinforced glass between us. I wasn’t going to pass him a shiv and we weren’t going to shake hands or hug out twenty years of tension. The only time we’d ever touched was when we were trying to beat the hell out of each other. I’d been thinking hard about the reasons for that on the ride back east. How could it be that I had such resentment and animosity for him, and he for me, and yet when he called I came running?
They led him in, draped in chains. He could shuffle along only a few inches at a time, his hands cuffed to a thick leather belt at his waist, his feet separated by a narrow chain, bracelets snapped to his ankles. It took ten minutes to unlock him. The screws retreated and Collie twirled his chair around and sat backward, like always.
Like most mad-dog convicts, prison agreed with him. He was a lot more fit than he’d ever been on the outside. The huge beer belly had been trimmed back to practically nothing, his arms thick and muscular and covered in twisted black veins. There was a new gleam in his eye that I couldn’t evaluate.
He had old scars from drunken brawls and new ones from the joint that gave him a sense of character he’d never exhibited before. Like me, he’d gone gray prematurely. He had a short but well-coiffed mane of silver with a few threads of black running through it. I noticed he’d also had a manicure and a facial. He glowed a healthy pink. He’d been moisturized and exfoliated and closely shaved. The nancies on C-Block could open up a salon in East Hampton and make a mint off Long Island’s wealthy blue-haired biddies.
I expected that with his execution only two weeks off, and with five years gone and all the uneasy blood still between us, we would need to pause and gather our thoughts before we spoke. I imagined we would stare at each other, making our usual judgments and taking each other’s measure. We’d then bypass trivial concerns to speak of extreme matters, whatever they might be. With a strange reservation, a kind of childlike hesitation, I lifted the phone and cleared my throat.
Collie moved with the restrained energy of a predator, slid forward in his seat, did a little rap-a-tap on the glass. He grasped the phone and first thing let loose with a snorted, easy laugh. He looked all around until he finally settled on my eyes.
He usually spoke with a quick, jazzy bop tempo, sometimes muttering out of the corner of his mouth or under his breath as if to an audience situated around him. This time he was focused. He nodded once, more to himself than me, and said, “Listen, Ma hates me, and that’s all right, but you, you’re the one who broke her heart. You—”
I hung up the phone, stood, and walked away.
I was nearly to the door when Collie’s pounding on the glass made me stop. It got the screws looking in on us. I kept my back to my brother. My scalp crawled and I was covered in sweat. I wondered if what he’d said was true. It was the best trick he had, getting me to constantly question myself. Even when I knew he was setting me up I couldn’t keep from falling into the trap. I wondered if my mother’s heart really had broken when I’d left. I thought of my younger sister, Dale, still waiting for me to read her romantic vampire fantasy novels. My father on the porch with no one to sit with. My gramp losing his memories, fighting to retain them, now that there was nobody to stroll around the lake with and discuss the best way to trick out burglar alarms.
Collie kept on shouting and banging. I took another step. I reached for the handle. Maybe if I’d made my fortune out west I would have found it easier to leave him there yelling. Maybe if I’d gotten married. Maybe if I’d raised a child.
But none of that had happened. I took a breath, turned, and sat again. I lifted the phone.
“Jesus, you’re still sensitive,” he said. “I only meant that you need to stop thinking about yourself and go see the family—”
“I’m not going to see the family. Why did you call me here, Collie?”
He let out a quiet laugh. He pointed through the huge glass window off to the side of us, which opened on an area full of long tables. His gaze was almost wistful. “You know, we were supposed to be able to talk over there. In that room, face-to-face. On this phone, talking to you like this, it’s not the way I wanted it to be.”
“How did you want it to be?”
He grinned and shrugged, and the thousand questions that had once burned inside me reignited. I knew he wouldn’t answer them. My brother clung to his secrets, great and small. He’d been interviewed dozens of times for newspaper articles and magazines and books, and while he gave intimate, awful details, he never explained himself. It drove the courts, the media, and the public crazy even now.
And me too. Words bobbed in my throat but never made it out. The timeworn campaigns and disputes between us had finally receded. I no longer cared about the insults, the torn pages, the girls he stole from me, or the way he’d run off on short cons gone bad, leaving me to take beatings from the marks. It had taken a lot of spilled blood to make me forgive him, if in fact I had. If not, it would only matter another few days.
On the long night of his rampage, my brother went so far down into the underneath that he didn’t come back up until after he’d murdered eight people. A vacationing family of five shot to death in a mobile home, a gas-station attendant knifed in a men’s room, an old lady beaten to death outside a convenience store, a young woman strangled in a park.
None of them had been robbed. He hadn’t taken anything, hadn’t even cleaned out the register at the gas station.
It wasn’t our way. It had never been our way. I thought of my grandfather Shepherd again. One of my earliest memories was of him telling us all around a Thanksgiving dinner, You’re born thieves, it’s your nature, handed down to me, handed down from me. This is our way. He’d been getting ready to cut into a turkey Collie had boosted from the King Kullen.
Collie turned on the charm, showed me his perfect teeth, and said, “Been a long time, Terry. You look good. Trim, built up. You’re as dark as if you’d been dipped in a vat of maple syrup.”
“I work on a ranch.”
“Yeah? What, busting broncos? Roping cattle? Like that?”
“Where? Colorado? Montana?”
That question made me frown. I’d been eager to know how he’d managed to track me down. I’d been off the grift for years, living under an assumed name, doing an honest job. I thought I’d covered my tracks well, but four days ago, after coming in from digging fence posts, I’d received a phone call from a woman whose voice I didn’t recognize. She’d told me Collie wanted to see me before he died.
“You already know. How’d you find me?”
“I put in a call.”
“Who do you think?”
He meant our family, who had connections all over the circuit. I’d half-expected that they’d somehow kept tabs on me. They must’ve gotten in touch with the people I’d bought my fake ID from and shadowed me through the years. I should have realized my father wouldn’t let me go so easily.
But that voice on the phone didn’t belong to anyone I knew. I wondered if my other identity had been completely blown and I’d have to start over again, rebuild another new life. How many more did I have left in me?
“It’s been good seeing you, Terry. I’m glad you came. We both need a little more time.”
I’d barely slept over the last four days, and all the miles gunning across the country suddenly caught up with me. I felt tired as hell. “What are you talking about, Collie?”
“Come back tomorrow or the day after. They gave you shit at the door, I can tell. Rousted you, strip-searched you? If they try that again, tell them to fuck themselves.” He raised his voice again and shouted at the screws. “Dead man walking has at least a couple of extra privileges!”
“Listen, I’m not—”
“Take some time to settle yourself.”
“I don’t want to settle myself. I’m not coming back tomorrow, Collie.”
“Go home. Visit the family. I’ll tell you what I need when I see you again.”
I started breathing through my teeth. “What you need. I’m not running drugs for you. I’m not icing anybody on the outside for you. I’m not sending around a petition to the governor. I’m not coming back.”
It got him laughing again. “You’re home. You’re going to see the family because you’ve missed them. You’ve been gone a long time and proven whatever point you had to make, Terry. You can stick it out on your own. You’re your own man. You’re not Dad. You’re not me.” He cupped the phone even more tightly to his mouth. “Besides, you love them and they love you. It’s time to say hello again.”
Life lessons from death row. Christ. I felt nauseous.
I stared hard into my brother’s eyes, trying to read a face I’d always been able to read before. I saw in it just how plagued he was by his own culpability. He was shallow and vindictive, but he rarely lied. He didn’t often deny responsibility and he never cared about consequences. There was absolutely nothing I could do for him.
“I’m not coming back,” I told him.
“I think I need you to save someone’s life,” he said.
“Tomorrow afternoon. Or the day after, if you want. And don’t be late this time.”
I hung up on his smile and let out a hiss that steamed the glass.
Already he’d bent me out of shape. It had taken no more than fifteen minutes. We hadn’t said shit to each other. Maybe it was his fault, maybe it was mine. I could feel the old singular pain rising once more.
I shoved my chair back, took a few steps, and stopped. I thought, If I can get out now, without asking the question, I might be able to free myself. I have the chance. It’s there. The door is three feet away. I can do this. I can do this.
What People are Saying About This
Advance praise for The Last Kind Words
“Perfect crime fiction . . . a convincing world, a cast of compelling characters, and above all a great story.”—Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of 61 Hours
“For the first time since The Godfather, a family of criminals has stolen my heart. This is a brilliant mix of love and violence, charm and corruption. I loved it.”—Nancy Pickard, bestselling author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning
“You don’t choose your family. And the Rand clan, a family of thieves, is bad to the bone. But it’s a testimony to Tom Piccirilli’s stellar writing that you still care about each and every one of them. The Last Kind Words is at once a dark and brooding page-turner and a heartfelt tale about the ties that bind.”—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Darkness, My Old Friend
“Piccirilli straddles genres with the boldness of the best writers today, blending suspense and crime fiction into tight, brutal masterpieces.”—James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil Colony
“Tom Piccirilli’s sense of relationships and the haunting power of family lifts his writing beyond others in the genre. The Last Kind Words is a swift-moving and hard-hitting novel.”—Michael Koryta, Edgar Award–nominated author of The Ridge
“A stunning story that ranges far afield at times but never truly leaves home, a place where shadows grow in every corner . . . superbly told, with prose that doesn’t mess about or flinch from evil.”—Daniel Woodrell, PEN USA award–winning author of Winter’s Bone
“There’s more life in The Last Kind Words (and more heartache, action, and deliverance) than in any other novel I’ve read in the past couple of years.”—Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award–winning author of The Lock Artist
“You’re in for a treat. Tom Piccirilli is one of the most exciting authors around. He writes vivid action that is gripping and smart, with characters you believe in and care about.”—David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of First Blood
“Mystic River set the bar for classic literary mystery, and The Last Kind Words is a novel on the same superb playing field. Compassionate, fascinating, and with an adrenaline narrative that is as gripping as it is moving, this book is pure alchemy.”—Ken Bruen, Shamus and Macavity Award–winning author of The Guards and Headstone
“Piccirilli’s family of heartbroken thieves, bound by love, secrets, and family codes, kept me turning the pages until the very end. It pained me to put this book down at night. Tom Piccirilli is the leader of a new pack of writers combining the best elements of crime, mystery, and literary fiction in a way that would make Chandler proud. I loved this book, and can’t wait for the sequel.”—Sara Gran, author of Clare DeWitt and the City of the Dead
“Tom Piccirilli’s The Last Kind Words is a story born of the dark legacies of family violence and loss. With vivid prose and palpable urgency, it succeeds utterly as a crime tale. At the same time, it reminds us that crimes can emanate from both the darkest and lightest of places, and renders the heart of a damaged family with clear-eyed yet fervent beauty.”—Megan Abbott, author of The End of Everything
“Piccirilli has created a world so real you can smell the mildew. After writing crime and horror for presses well known and obscure, he deserves a breakout novel and this just might be it.” —Booklist
“A searing examination of the ties that bind brother to brother…a soulful, shivery edge to this tale of an unhappy family that’s assuredly unhappy in its own special way.”
“[A] sharp slice of contemporary noir….Piccirilli’s mastery of the hard-boiled idiom is pitch perfect, particularly in the repartee between his characters, while the picture he paints of the criminal corruption conjoining the innocent and guilty in a small Long Island community is as persuasive as it is seamy. Readers who like a bleak streak in their crime fiction will enjoy this well-wrought novel.” —Publishers Weekly
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Leaves you wanting more... interesting, quirky, fully developed characters...very witty dialogue. Looking forward to the second book about this unusual family.
************* THIS BOOK WAS JUST INCREDIBLE ************* This book was not what i expected at all !!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was a capitvating story that held my complete attention until the very end with characters that are all too real, who draw you into their lives through lines that are so well written. It truely astounds the reader with all the complex make-up of each and every character and conveys an understanding of what's it's like in the world of criminals. I didn't want the book to end, and have pre-ordered the sequel, "The Last Whisper In The Dark". DO YOURSELF A HUGE FAVOR, GET THIS BOOK, PLEASE. This would make an incredible movie. oh my gosh, if i had the money, i would make it myself.
A superb read. Tom Piccirilli has managed to fuse the thriller-crime fiction conventions with a literary style full of depth and emotional context. A gripping read with thoughtful, rich, complex characterizations and motifs.
I love books by Tom Piccirilli. I couldn't put this book down. This series is so good!! I hope he writes a third installment!
See, here’s the thing. You ever read a book that you thoroughly enjoyed ‘cause maybe it was real easy reading, just kinda flowed, and it held your attention right from page one? Yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about. Then you go on and read somebody else’s book, and then somebody else’s book after that. And then you come to the next book on your to-be-read list, start reading, smile to yourself and think, ‘Gee, I never realized how much I really missed reading this guy’s stories.’ Well, that’s exactly how it is with Pic. You never realize how much you’ve missed reading his stories until you start the next one. Great stories. Easy reading. It don’t get much better than that.
This book easily made my top 10 WORST book list. A less than compelling story, the writing is full of cliches, Piccirilli clumsy attempts to explore the phyches' of his characters is at times so painful that I had to stop to laugh. Peripheral characters add nothing to the story. Elmore Leonard, he ain't.
As other reviewers have said, the Rands are a dysfunctional family, full of secrets and quirks. For generations, they have cultivated their craft of crime ¿ burglaries, scams and gambling. Their custom-made home has plenty of secret caches for the loot that they have collected over generations. Everyone is named after a breed of dog ¿ Collie, who is Terrier¿s brother facing execution after a murderous spree; Malamute and Greyhound, who are Terrier¿s uncles, both acting oddly, possibly as a result of Alzheimer¿s disease; Airedale, Terrier¿s teenage sister, at risk for going down the wrong path as she becomes involved with a petty criminal who isn¿t adverse to using violence; Pinscher, his father, who has emotional walls that seem impossible to scale; poor Old Shepherd, Terrier¿s demented grandfather, barely cognizant of his surroundings but still capable of instinctive pick pocketing¿ and his mother, whose life revolves around cooking and cleaning, the only family member who seems capable of showing any heartfelt emotions at all. We know that Collie committed a horrible crime, resulting in the deaths of seven people. He will be executed soon. Before he goes for his lethal injection, he asks Terrier to look into the death of the eighth person ¿ the one he claims that he did not kill. Is he trying to manipulate his brother? Terrier, who is almost incapable of expressing emotions, feels the confusion of both hate and love towards his brother. After all, the Rands don¿t use violence and this crime is totally unacceptable to the family. Yet he feels obligated to at least consider the possibility that Collie could be innocent of this one murder. And anyone ¿ the slightly bent local cop, the mob or even a member of his family ¿ could be the culprit. I really enjoyed reading this book and found the quality of writing to be superb. I wanted to fit it neatly into a genre ¿ thriller, suspense, romance, serial killer, mystery ¿ but it just didn¿t seem to fit well into any one category. I guess I¿d have to call it a bit of all these genres, fitting best into simply ¿literature,¿ which to me is a step above the other choices. Every now and then, I¿d come across a sentence or two that brought such a vivid visualization that I said to myself ¿Oh wow! I really liked how he said that¿¿If you like a good story but are tired of reading pulpy airport novels, I¿d recommend this book. It¿s definitely several steps above the mass-market fiction in both the writing and plot complexity. I give it five stars.
Perhaps the only thing that could bring Terrier Rand home again was the message that his soon-to-be-executed brother wished to see him. Not that Terrie harbored any brotherly love for his condemned sibling; they had enjoyed a mutual dislike, if not hatred, for each other all their lives, and Collie upcoming date with a lethal injection meant little to Terry.Nor did he have any particular wish to renew his ties with the Rand family, having broken with them, and the family's business - grifting, robbery, burglary - shortly after Collie's homicidal spree that left five dead. In fact, Terrie's not sure why he came back. He doesn't believe his brother's claim that one of the murder victims for which Collie was sentenced to death was actually killed by someone else, not really. But the fact that Collie insists this is so, while never denying the others, is compelling, to say nothing of the possibility that there may be others, and another killer at work.The characters in this book are not likeable, but they are interesting. Criminals all, until Collie's murderous escapade, they had for generations engaged in various forms of fraud, burglary, scams, never even carrying weapons, and thus had established a reputation of sorts, even a left-handed kind of respectability, which was damaged by the eldest son's rampage. On his return Terrie must confront the past - his own as well as the family's - as he begins, reluctantly to look into his brother's claim. What he finds is less and more than he bargains for. Good book.
"I'd come five years and two thousand miles to stand in the rain while they prepared my brother for his own murder".And so the story begins. Terry Rand has returned home to speak with his brother Collie a last time before his exacution is carried out. The one request Collie has to prove him not guilty of the one murder he says he did not commit. The Rand family is complicated, generations of grifters, and trying to reconnect after 5 years away Terry is not easy.I found this book fascinating, and will be passed on to all my friends so they can enjoy it as much as I did.
I received this book as an early reader. I had a hard time getting into the storyline at first as it was not what I was expecting for a thriller. About half way through the book I started getting into it and I really enjoyed it. I did not expect the twist in the story . I would recommended the book and plan to pass it to a friend. I plan on reading other books by Tom Piccirilli as I have heard a lot of positive reviews.
This is the first of Piccirilli¿s novels that I have read, so I came in with no preconceptions. First, let me say I really enjoyed it while I was reading it. I finished it in 2 evenings and appreciated that the plot moved along smoothly and although there were plenty of characters, the relationships were laid out clearly.The Rand family is, to put it charitably, dysfunctional. For generations¿three of which are living together under the same roof¿the offspring have been named for various dog breeds (Collie, Terry (Terrier), Dale (Airedale)¿) and raised from the cradle to the ¿bent life¿ of crime. They have always made a comfortable living from grifting, cons, cheating at cards, breaking-and-entering aka:¿creeping¿, but have steadfastly drawn the line at violent, confrontational crimes.Which is why it is such a shock when one of the sons, Terry¿s brother Collie, apparently commits a heinous act of mass murder, then calmly returns to his favorite bar, confesses and waits to be arrested. On death row for five years, and now only two weeks from his date with the executioner, he summons Terry to the prison, claiming that he is not guilty of one of the murders, begging Terry to investigate and find the real killer.In a family unable to demonstrate their love for one another in any meaningful way, with silence and secrets a daily way of life, Terry is conflicted about whether or not to commit to this investigation. Is Collie guilty? Covering for someone else? Just plain mad-dog crazy? Realizing that Grandpa is suffering from Alzheimer¿s, albeit with momentary sparks of unexpected lucidity, and the uncles have recently been seen behaving oddly as well, Terry understands that ¿crazy¿ is a definite possibility. He begins to second-guess his sometimes dark thoughts and is haunted by the prospect that he may in fact be witnessing his own future descent into the same madness.¿The Last Kind Words¿ is an enjoyable read. Like most such novels however, it weaves an intricate web that requires some level of suspension of disbelief. Because it¿s difficult to tie *all* the loose ends up into a perfectly neat bow at the end, you should probably just go with it and enjoy it for the ride more than the destination.
Terry Rand is back from out West after a five year absence--just in time for his brother¿s execution for killing 8 (or was it 7?) people in a single night, then calmly returning to a bar, laying down his weapon, and waiting for the police. What caused the killing spree? Terry fears it is ¿the underneath¿, some sort of creeping evil that lives in his family¿s veins. Of course, it isn¿t your average family. It is a family of thieves, going back several generations. The household Terry returns to includes his Grandfather, deep into Alzheimer¿s and watching children¿s cartoons most of the time, his father and his father¿s two brothers, his mother, and his 15 year old sister Dale. And, of course, the cop who hangs around all the time trying to be part of the family, even more so now that he is separated from his wife and children. And one more thing--all the Rands are named after dogs (except for Terry¿s--Terrier¿s--mother, who got in by marriage.) His uncles are Malamute and Greyhound, Mal and Grey for short. His father is Pinscher; his condemned brother is Colley; and so on.Piccirilli paints a painful picture of a very dysfunctional family. The Rand house is full of hidey holes of cash, but also tons of bric-a-brac they were unable to fence and have kept around for years. No one communicates very well. The two uncles seem intent on getting themselves killed by a gangster for cheating at cards. The gangster is an old childhood friend of Terry who has now taken over for his deceased father, and appears to be bringing in some outside muscle to help him out. The sister is dating a 21-year old hoodlum and would-be armed robber, though in other ways she seems to have her head together, and is even auditioning for the part of Blanche in her high school¿s production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. And of course, with the execution coming up, there is a media circus outside the house, which debonair Uncle Grey has taken advantage of by romancing a pretty TV reporter.And Terry has a few personal problems of his own (not) to deal with, such as his enduring pain over leaving Kimmy, whom he planned to marry, in the aftermath of her miscarriage with their child. Kimmy is now married to another old friend of Terry, who runs a body shop and offers getaway advice as a side business. Terry also discovers he still has a knack for breaking into houses, and these ¿creeps¿ as he calls them, are an important part of the book.Terry visits Colley in prison, and Colley claims he didn¿t commit one of the eight murders he is about to die for. Terry doesn¿t believe him, but is compelled to investigate anyway, which leads him into a number of encounters, some violent, and a deepening sense of fear about his own dark urges. All of this is told in what is a rather slow-moving, though never boring, story. There are lots more characters that I won¿t mention. The thing that most of them have in common is their strangeness; most of them seem a little removed from reality.Piccirilli has tossed a lot of balls into the air, including some I haven¿t mentioned, but he doesn¿t do such a great job of juggling them. I realize that the author is trying to achieve something well beyond what the normal noir or pulp fiction novel strives for, but the end result isn't an intentionally incomplete experience that encourages the reader to fill in the gaps or add his or her own interpretation. Rather, it is a collection of pieces that don't quite add up to a coherent whole. Each time Terry starts contemplating ¿the underneath¿ again and how it could have driven his brother to murder, it all seems more than a bit contrived. As does the ultimate ¿solution¿ to the murder Colley claimed to have not committed. The story builds slowly to its cataclysm, but there are too many scenes that appear to be attached with Bondo, such as an unlikely one involving a gunman and a frozen turkey. On occasion, Piccirilli seems to even want to inject a bit of humor into the story, but it is a bad fit. In t
Writers often fall into two camps. Those with characters and no story and those with a great story and undeveloped characters. Initially I thought Piccirilli was going to fall into the later. However as the book progressed I discovered there was an excellent story underneath it all. The Last Kind Words, tells the the tale of a family of thieves all named for dogs. The main character Terrier is back in town because his brother Collie, scheduled to be executed for a murderous rampage, has claimed innocence in one of the murders. In investigating Terrier is forced to confront the true nature of his family and how he fits in. The clan will stick with you long after the book is finished,
Terrier, Collie, Greyhound, Airedale, Shepherd, Malamute...these are the first names of members of the main character's family. My first thought was that if the story needed a gimmick like that, it was already in trouble -- and it was. I had not read Piccirilli before and assumed this to be a debut novel and read it as such, making allowances for the plot holes, repetitiveness etc, telling myself "this guy has potential, he can only get better." Now I have to wonder if my early reader's copy was flawed or so badly edited that it skewed my perception of the story and the writing, because while I didnt hate this book, in fact rather enjoyed parts, it was nothing I would ever hand to a friend. That is my litmus test and this awkward, contrived tale about a gloomy family who live in danger of succumbing to 'the underneath' didnt pass.
Tom Piccirilli creates a cast of characters that is instantly interesting; a family of thieves with a line they won't cross until one of them does. The story is very linear, following Terrier Rand as he struggles with his familial identity on his path to discover the truth behind his brother's brutal killing spree. The linear plot is helped out by a brisk pace, well-placed action, and a story that the reader is never quite sure where it's headed.
I have never read a book by Tom Piccirilli and, after reading this one, I now have to go back and read all his others. I loved this book! Written in the first person, the character voice immediately drew me in. Piccirilli's phrasing and writing style is captivating. There are no real good guys here, only varying shades of bad guys (and girls). Despite that, or maybe because of it, I liked them and couldn't help but care about what happened to these people. This story is drenched in sadness, yet didn't make me feel as if I was drowning. I saw the bad coming and still hoped something good would be there waiting. This is a unique and powerful story, and one I highly recommend.
This was a unique and interesting story that kept me turning pages. A family of theives all named after dogs. Terrier, Malamute, Collie, Airedale are a few. Although they are theives, they don't do armed robbery or hurt anyone until Collie loses it one night and goes on a murdering spree. There was no explanation for it and he doesn't make excuses. Collie is on death row when he contacts his brother Terrier (Terry) and asks him to look into the last death. Terry hates his brother for what he's done, but still loves him and becomes intrigued with the last death. What Terry discovers makes for an unexpected ending.
Review of ¿The Last Kind Words¿Disclosure: I received a free advance copy of this book with the expectation that I would provide an honest review.¿The Last Kind Words¿ is an engrossing story of a family of thieves dealing with life in the two weeks before the execution of their oldest son for murder. All the members of the family are named after dog breeds¿as they have been for generations in the family.The plot itself moves rather slowly, but the characters are vivid and real. In a rare meeting with his convicted murderer brother Collie, Terrier (who goes by Terry) is convinced to investigate one of the murders Collie is sentenced to die for. Collie claims he didn¿t kill one of the people he was convicted of murdering.Over the next couple of weeks, Terry investigates the murder and along the way, we get to meet various people in his life and from his past. The characters are vividly described and are unique enough to really seem real¿unlike the simple caricatures that often passes for character development these days.The author and Terry succeed in asking a number of profound questions in a way that never feels heavy-handed, yet are compelling for us to ask ourselves: how many of our choices are driven by our family and our upbringing, where is the line of depravity in each of us, why do we decide to do things which we know are wrong and harmful to ourselves?This is one of those books where you find yourself desperate to find out how the story ends, yet simultaneously wishing the story could go on since you¿re so engrossed in the lives of the characters.I look forward to reading other Tom Piccirilli books.
Loved it from start to finish! Just enough wit and humor to balance out the heavier themes. I'm ready for the sequel for sure.
Me,rory and rory sit at a small place we made in the middle of the dump. I say " Alright you guys ready?" They nod. Ok i take boths hand sand whistper "Arese" and the dump starts to move. The WHOLE dump. All the trash starts to form and it comes out as our base as it lands softly i say "ok lets go" i walk in and smile it looks like a spy building from the inside computers, robots, elevators and everything its AWESOME?