There are times as a writer when I read a book and think, “Boy, I wish I’d written that!” And there are times as a reader when I think, “Wow! I really didn’t want that to end!” And I’ve come to notice that it’s when I read stories by Tom Piccirilli that I think both of those things time and again.
*****SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read THE LAST KIND WORDS, proceed at your own risk.*****
I finished reading THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK yesterday afternoon. After I set the book back on my bookshelf, I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes. I just wanted to sit there for a few minutes and let the story soak into my brain some more. I wanted to think about things like friendship, loyalty, and family. To let my mind explore the possibilities of what I might do to protect the things I hold dear. Or what I might do if someone tried to take those things away from me.
Picirrilli introduced readers to the Rand family in THE LAST KIND WORDS. After a five year absence, Terry Rand returns home just days before his brother is to be executed for a horrific killing spree. Terry’s brother, Collie, claims that one of the victims wasn’t his and the “real” killer is still out there. Terry doesn’t know what to believe but allows himself to be drawn back into to the life he abandoned in order to find the truth.
THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK picks up shortly after Collie’s execution. Terry and his family are reeling from the losses not only Collie, but also Terry’s uncles, Grey and Mal. Tensions are high and even the family dog, JFK, appears to be suffering. When Terry left five years earlier, he didn’t just abandon his family. He also abandoned his fiancee, Kimmy. Kimmy moved on with her life and is now married to Terry’s ex-best friend, Chub. However, Terry can’t let them live happily ever after. He’s convinced Chub’s doing business with the wrong people and is in over his head. Terry wants to protect Kimmy and her daughter, who he still views as “his girls.” But how far is he willing to go to get Chub out of this mess? Does he even want Chub to get out? Perhaps the only person Terry really wants to help is himself.
Meanwhile, John, Terry’s long lost cousin from his mother’s side of the family, surfaces intent on reconnecting. Terry’s mother was disowned when she married into the Rand family. But now, nearly 30 years later, her dying father wants to mend fences. Terry is skeptical but doesn’t want his mother to face this alone. Terry is surprised by the type of family his mother came from and doubts that the life she’s lived since was worth the life she gave up.
From this point, Picirrilli leads readers into the underneath. Terry learns that the while the Rand and Crowe families might travel in different social circles, there are points where their lives are intertwined. The pull of the bent life is still there whether you’re rich or poor. But once you’re in, can you ever escape it?
The writer in me loves this book because it’s an example of perfect execution from a craft perspective.
And the reader in me loves it because Picirrilli made me feel like I was living Terry Rand’s life right along with him. That’s what I want when I read fiction…to give up my own life and take on someone else’s for a little while.