Tom Piccirilli got his start writing horror fiction, where the demons look like monsters, smell like sulfur and can be summoned or banished with a mysterious potion or an ancient incantation. Piccirilli doesn’t write about those kinds of demons very much these days; instead, he examines hauntings of a more realistic nature.
The demon that looks at you from across the dinner table. Or stares back at you from the mirror.
In The Last Whisper in the Dark, Piccirilli brings back Terrier “Terry” Rand (introduced in last year’s The Last Kind Words) and his family of thieves and grifters. Things weren’t exactly rosy in that first book, but there are even more clouds hanging over the Rands as Whisper opens. Terry is mourning the deaths of two family members (I’ll stay mum on their identities for the benefit of those who haven’t read The Last Kind Words yet), the end of a close relationship, and pretty much every decision he’s made in life. Meanwhile, his father and grandfather are both sliding into the oblivion of Alzheimer’s, a fate Terry is convinced is waiting for him somewhere down the line.
Somehow, in the midst of it all, Terry sees a few rays of hope that he’s determined to cling to. A new woman. A chance to reconnect with his mother’s side of the family. A sister with talents that don’t involve creeping houses and picking locks. But trouble never strays far from the Rand family, and the more Terry tries to find his version of the straight and narrow, the more he finds himself going down dark alleys. And that’s where Piccirilli loads in the demons, in the form of opportunistic movie producers, drug dealers, ice-cold killers, desperate bank robbers, and friends with a chip on their shoulder.
For a book packed with so much stuff, Whisper reads just like a crime novel should: lightning quick. All the fat’s been trimmed away, but there’s plenty of substance. On the surface it’s an engrossing tale of power struggles, double-crosses and ticking clocks; underneath, it is an examination of identity through the eyes of a man who knows who he is, but wonders if there’s a chance to be someone different. Can Terry stay true to himself even though he’s often defined by the actions and expectations of those around him? Does that even matter if, in the end, he’s going to forget everything he’s ever known?
I can’t say enough about Piccirilli’s skills as a writer. His books are like music, with detail and emotion packed into the beats between the words. It feels effortless, which means it was hard as hell to pull off – yet Piccirilli does it time and time again.
The Last Whisper in the Dark is available now. I suggest you drop whatever book you’re currently trudging through and go pick it up.