The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
Publisher: Random House/June, 2012
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.
Terry Rand hasn’t seen his family for 5 years, but the impending execution of his brother Collie has brought him home. He thought that living under an assumed name and losing himself in the labor of tending to a sprawling ranch would give him the peace he desperately wanted, but he was so wrong. His family is shattered after the killing spree perpetrated by his brother that left eight dead, including a family of 5 and a little girl. After all, the Rands aren’t killers, they’re thieves, and the why of Collie’s rampage is still a mystery, and Collie certainly isn’t shedding any light on it himself. He didn’t call Terry back to tell him why he killed eight people, though. In fact, he claims that the young woman that was strangled and attributed to him wasn’t actually his doing, and he wants Terry to find out who it was, before anyone else dies. What made Collie go so deep down into the underneath, and can Terry find out without destroying his family any further?
Terry’s homecoming has stirred up all kinds of new trouble, not to mention the trouble that had already infiltrated his family. His grandfather is sinking further and further into Alzheimers (and possibly his uncles), his 15 yr old sister is dating a much older guy (who “smelled of oil, acne ointment, and second-rate pot”) that his parents strongly disapprove of, and the only woman he’s ever loved is now married to his former best friend. Then there’s the other crime family that’s got their eyes and ears on him, and they’re not a peace loving clan like the Rands. There’s also a nosy cop (and family friend) sniffing around, looking for his own particular brand of trouble. Things are slowly crumbling, amidst this eccentric family, and Collie seems to be at the center, but there are plenty of skeletons in this family’s rather deep closets. When the body count starts to rise again, and is unmistakably connected to the girl that Collie claims he didn’t kill
This isn’t just a murder mystery, it’s a book about a brother’s love, a son’s love for his family, and the ties that bind us together. The gritty, nourish undertones only serve to highlight the prose that always hovers right at the edge of desperation, as Terry’s voice carries us through his own self discovery, and his struggle to understand his relationship with his brother and how things could have gone so, so wrong in one long, dark night. Terry is terrified of someday becoming his brother, or succumbing to the disease that seems to be eating his family from the inside out, and his search for answers is eating him alive. Throughout this book, I kept hoping that Collie was innocent, that he didn’t cold bloodedly kill eight people, but he did. All except for one. The race for the true killer is only one of the reasons you’ll be up late reading this. Terry Rand and his dysfunctional family are nothing short of fascinating, yet for all of the dysfunction, their love for each other is fierce and true, and the explosive climax will test that love to the limits. The Last Kind Words will keep you up late, horrify you, and break your heart, and you’ll still want more. Don’t miss this one!