Title: The Last Kind Words
Rating: 2 Stars
It starts out promising enough. There’s a family that have been thieves for multiple generations. For most of those generations, the family members have names of dog breeds. The two brothers are named Terrier (goes by Terry) and Collie. They have a sister named Airedale (goes by Dale). Their father is named Pinscher. They have two uncles named Greyhound (Grey) and Malamute (Mal). Their grandfather is named Shepherd (Shep).
Being thieves for multiple generations, it’s become their family business. They all start young and their house is full of loot caches from past robberies. They have a family code, the number one of which is to never use a gun.
This all comes apart one night when Collie, for no apparent reason, shoots dead five members of a family, knives a gas station attendant, beats an old lady to death, and strangles a young woman. At trial, he barely puts up a defense and is sentenced to death. Terry, who in addition to this experienced his own personal tragedy, runs away and tries to lose himself working on ranches in the West.
The book picks up two weeks before Collie’s scheduled execution. He requests to see Terry. The family tracks him down and he comes back home to visit the brother that he both hates and loves.
Collie has one request of Terry. He admits to killing seven of his victims but claims that he did not strangle the young woman. He asks Terry to find the real killer to prevent the killer from continuing to kill after Collie’s dead.
This search is the basic plot of the book. There are multiple other threads as well. After being gone for many years, how well will Terry integrate with the rest of the family that stayed? Can he keep his younger sister Dale from going down the same criminal path as the rest of her family? Will he reconcile with Kimmy, the fiance that he abandoned? Did Collie really kill the eighth victim, and if not, then who?
I really wanted to like this book. The dog names are a gimmick, but it serves the purpose of establishing the Rand family as being truly outcast outlaws comfortable living on the periphery of society. The interrelationships between the Rand family members were interesting. They all love each but don’t exactly trust each other. Being so used to running cons, none of them seem to have any emotional capacity to be open with each other. This reality is a cloud that hangs over every single one of their interactions.
Having said that, I felt the book fell seriously short. Sure, the basic plot questions were resolved. However, there were so many plot gaps / questions left that I felt as if I was watching one of those movies where the director’s original three hour masterpiece was butchered into a hundred minute mash by studio executives.
Among so many questions:
- Why did Collie kill the eight people (OK, maybe seven)?
- Why did he, if by code was never to use a gun, get a gun the day before the murder?
- Why did he kiss the victims after he killed them?
- If he was so concerned about future victims, then why wait until two weeks before he was executed to try to get someone find the other murderer?
- Why did Terry run from Kimmy?
- Does Shep really have Alzheimer’s? If so, what are the flashes of intelligence that he has?
- I really, really, really don’t think that Alzheimer’s works the way that the characters act
I see that there’s a sequel out that may or may not answer these questions, but honestly I don’t think that I really care enough about the characters to find out.
It was very disappointing for a novel that started out with so much promise.