The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
LIBRARY READ OF THE MONTH FOR THE WIN! (Yes, I know there’s still another full week in January left but I don’t think anything is gonna beat The Last Kind Words. I’m 99.9% sure of it.)
The Last Kind Words Rating: Fuzzy-blanket-right-out-of-the-dryer kinda good.
Standalone or series? Series – Book 1 of 2
Setting: Long Island
In The Last Kind Words we are introduced to the Rand family – a brood of criminals branding/specializing in various illegal passions. The group of thieves is “led” by a taciturn, criminal-gone-straight softened old, man who had raised his boys with one rule: no killing. When one of his sons goes on a killing rampage, all connections are severed and the younger brother decides it’s his time to escape the world of loot hidden between secret walls of the house, card tricks, and news station crews stalking the house he once called a safe haven. Fast forward several hard years and the brothers reunite (reluctantly and very angrily) when the older asks the younger to help him figure out who killed one of the eight people he was sent to prison for murdering. (He admits to the other seven. So, this isn’t a case of wrongful accusation necessarily.)
My favorite part of The Last Kind Words? An almost fable-like way of naming the character tree although not in any way humorous or undignified. The entire Rand family is named after dog breeds: Pinsch (Pinscher), Grey (Greyhound), Mal (Malamute), Dale (Airedale), Shep (Shepherd), Collie, and Terry (Terrier). Somehow Piccirilli managed to escape any derision I might’ve felt toward this by bringing characters to life who were anything but ridiculous.
Pinsch is the sharp tongued, yet quiet father who placed emotions last on the list when raising two boys to be thieves: Collie (the older) and Terrier (the younger).When Terry returns to “help” Collie find who the other killer is, he’s greeted by a very much changed Pinsch. Much of Terry and his father’s relationship when he comes home centers around a front porch, a cooler of beer, and an aging dog who once ripped a man’s throat out to protect his master. Replacing the man who once could pick pockets as easy as tying his shoes is now an elderly man who collects antiques and spends a good chunk of his time worrying about his only daughter (Dale).
Mal and Grey are the uncles, both suffering with the fear/effects of Alzheimer’s and losing “their touch.” They are two contradictory figures: Mal is dark, brutish, and rough where as Grey is smooth, still handsome, and slick with the ladies. Ole Shep is the patriarch – the grandfather – who is also incapacitated with Alzheimer’s. He spends most of his time in a chair in front of a TV but has moments of such quick reflexes it’s hard to forget he was the original Rand pick-pocket.
The supporting female characters were just as intriguing. Collie, Terrier, and Dale’s mother chose to marry Pinsch against her family’s wishes and therefore was cut off from them. She is a stoic woman, ever the caretaker, with an ironic twist of ethics. Dale, the only daughter, is now reaching the full grasp of her teenhood and (of course) dating a boy her parents and Terrier don’t/won’t like. She is spared the teachings of thievery – instead excelling in school and the arts/music. Dale actually ended up being my favorite character, up against Terrier. She’s sharp as a tack and loyal to a fault.
There is plenty of tension, growth, and drama within the Rands throughout The Last Kind Words – especially when Terrier decides to help Collie. There are other secondary characters who I enjoyed/despised and the setting was endearing. It took me awhile to get a feel for where things actually were because there’s almost an Appalachian feel, too. The Rand house is intriguing, both the physical layout and the emotional walls. The climax was enough to make me grip the book a little harder – even though you get a “sense” of what could happen, I was still surprised in the end.
“The last kind words ever spoken to Jesus were spoken by a thief.”
He tried to pull away but I held on.
“We were the first let into heaven. Thieves are pardoned.”
(Terrier, The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli)
This is my first Tom Piccirilli novel – published in 2012. I have read since on Goodreads, he’s passed away. The Last Kind Words will definitely spark more interest in his other works, however, and several have mentioned a few novellas they enjoyed. To my elation, there’s a second novel on Terrier Rand – The Last Whisper in the Dark. (Totally excited to get hold of it.)
**I grabbed this book at Dulany Library in Salisbury if anyone wants to give it a shot! We are so fortunate to have such a phenomenal library in our small town, y’all. The Last Kind Words had been in my TBR Jar for a few weeks and you can only imagine how excited I was when I found it on their shelves!
© Pearl Bayou 2017