Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Posts Tagged ‘family loyalties’

THE LAST KIND WORDS by Tom Piccirilli: Book Review

Talk about your dysfunctional families. The Rand family could be the “poster children” for this term.  The grifting, stealing men in the family go back four generations, but the novel focuses on the last three.  There’s the grandfather, Old Shep, living in the family home and suffering from dementia; the father, Pinsch, trying to hold the family together; his two brothers, Mal and Grey, both fearful that they too are losing their memories and skills; Pinsch’s older son, Collie, who is a week away from being executed for killing eight people; and the book’s protagonist, Terry, the younger son, who ran from the family five years ago and has just returned.

Note anything about the names that the men have?  They are all shortened versions of dogs’ names; it’s a family tradition.  There’s Shepherd, Pinscher, Malamute, Greyhound, Collie, and Terrier.  Says something about the family’s mindset, doesn’t it?

Oh, yes, there are two women in the story–the mother and the younger sister in the family.  The sister’s name is Dale, short for Airedale, I assume.  And the Rands have a dog–his name is John F. Kennedy.

The reason Terry has come home after five years out west is due to a phone call from his sister, saying that their brother Collie has asked for him.  Although Terry and Collie have always had a difficult relationship, bonds are very strong in the family, so Terry goes to the prison to see what Collie wants.  Collie, who admitted his guilt in seven of the murders, has always denied that he killed the eighth victim, a young woman who was killed on the same night he went on his murder spree.

Terry wants to know what difference it makes if his brother is given the needle for eight murders instead of the seven he admitted to, and Collie says that several similar murders have taken place while he’s been in prison. Other young, pretty, brunette women have been murdered, and he thinks he should do something to stop the killings.  He’s told the police, but they don’t believe his denial of the eighth murder and don’t accept that these other murders are anything but coincidences.  After all, murders of young, pretty women aren’t rare.

Dale is fifteen and on the verge of falling into a life of crime.  As if it’s not bad enough that larceny runs in her veins, she’s involved with a young hoodlum who works for the head of the town’s criminal enterprise.  He’s planning to rob a jewelry store and has been foolish enough to ask Terry to join his gang, a move that alerted Terry to the path his sister may be on.

The only character in the Rand family who seems to be “straight” is the mother; exactly why she married into the family, knowing what she knew about them, is difficult to fathom.  She appears loving and kind, and it’s hard to understand how she’s been able to stay that way after some thirty years of living in the same house with her husband, his two brothers, and their father, criminals all.  But then there’s no accounting for love, is there?

The Last Kind Words is a wonderful novel, with fascinating characters and a plot that will keep you reading until the last page.  I know there is another Rand family book in the works; I hope Tom Piccirilli writes quickly.

You can read more about Tom Piccirilli at his web site.