Friday, August 28, 2015
A Few Kind Words
And I know I'm not alone.
I've got a mountain of his books yet to work through, but fare like Every Shallow Cut and The Last Kind Words drive home an ideal to me for the balance of delivering genre-goods in hugely emotionally resonant work that also challenged conventions of form and commercial viability. I'm republishing the review I wrote for The Last Kind Words for another web site. If you've not read Tom or this specific book, let me encourage you to.
With the execution date approaching Collie has reached out to his brother Terry to set his affairs in order (or possibly, as Terry suspects, amuse himself by messing with Terry’s mind and having him jump through a few hoops before he dies). Collie is no longer claiming one of his victims – a young girl killed that same night that he murdered the others – and Collie is convinced that the real killer is still out there and continuing to slay young women. And he wants Terry to look into it.
The reader’s thrill in glimpsing the raw and unmixed psychic ingredients behind someone’s projected image and public identity is also a large part of the second-story-man’s reason to pursue his chosen career. Just ask the Rands. Only – Don’t. Because they - like a skilled author - are accomplished con-men who’ll use generous chunks of un-edited truth to sell you the big lie. The mind games involved in the most basic of familial interactions here are Olympian. Is Collie concerned with redemption? Terry thinks not. Is Terry concerned with it? Maybe. Is Terry going to let Collie play mind games because he knows Collie knows Terry knows Terry needs some answers, needs redeeming. Or is that backward?
But don’t get me wrong – this is no maudlin piece of umbilicus cartography – The Last Kind Words is a forward propulsion mystery of uncommonly immediate and relatable consequence and unbearably heightened stakes. Terry’s decision to investigate the now un-claimed victim’s murder is just as thrilling and dreadful as the investigation itself due to the masterful rendering of the characters and environment, and that is far more than we have come to expect from the writing we seek to entertain us.
The title refers to the last kind words spoken by Christ during crucifixion – they were uttered to a thief and therefore, the Rand’s reason - there is a place in paradise reserved for thieves. The Last Kind Words deserves to be considered alongside anything else, concocted for awards and groomed for adulation coming down the pike this year, for a prominent spot on your reading list. It ought to earn Piccirilli a large and main-stream audience (he’s already beloved in crime and horror circles) and a place for genre writers in literary Avalon.
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