THE LAST KIND WORDS by Tom Piccirilli (2012 Bantam Books / 320 pp / hc)
One of the most rewarding things as a reader is to see a writer you admire continue to get better. With his latest crime noir novel, THE LAST KIND WORDS, Tom Piccirilli proves he has not only mastered the genre, but also made it his own.
After leaving his family in Long Island five years ago to work out west as a ranch hand, Terry Rand is called back home two weeks before his brother, Collie, is scheduled to be executed after being convicted of a brutal killing spree. While Collie has admited to murdering seven people, he inisists he wasn't responsible for the eighth. He's not looking for mercy or pity, but wants to be cleared of the eighth victim for his own reasons. Terry is relucatantly dragged back into the New York underworld to discover the truth, sending him into a violent and emotionally-charged tale of gangsters, thieves, and the power of family ties.
The scenes between Terry and his 15 year-old sister Dale rank among Piccirilli's finest writing, while his cast of crooked cops, health-in-decline old men, stupid young punks, new-school gangsters and sexy newswomen make the pages fly by at a frantic pace. The sense anyone can snap at anytime keeps the tension at full throttle, even during the quieter moments.
The Rands are a family of thieves who have survived for generations relying more on their craftiness than their seldom-used weapons, and like Mario Puzo's classic GODFATHER saga, here's a family of undesirables we can't get enough of and often find ourselves cheering for. Even the family dog (an American Staffordshire terrier, taken during one of Terry's father's heists) has more character than most humans you'll find in popular crime fiction.
I can't recommend THE LAST KIND WORDS enough, and can't wait for its forthcoming sequel. This is one of Piccirilli's finest novels.