Friday’s Forgotten Books: The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli

The Last Deep Breath follows Grey, an orphan who is shaped by events in his past and continues to let the world chart his course, like a boat adrift at sea. And yet, there is something about Grey that doesn’t strike anyone around him (except perhaps his foster brother, Pax) as someone aimless. 

In fact, most people seem to look at him and think he’s capable of killing.

Woman after woman begs him to off her husband and he bides his time, moving from woman to woman and never taking care of their spouses before he leaves without saying goodbye.

When he meets Kendra, things start to change. She’s an actress who is looking to make a comeback, and he was on his way to Los Angeles, so it’s a good match for him at the time. Once in LA he can proceed with his personal quest, which is to find the person his foster sister mentioned, the man he thinks can help him locate Ellie after her disappearance.

One of the best features of Tom Piccirilli’s writing is how fully he fleshes out characters without overtelling; he makes it look effortless to tell such an engaging tale in a hundred pages. He also doesn’t start out with a lot of backstory, and when Grey’s history is introduced it weaves in with the present in such a way that you never feel like you lost forward momentum. Piccirilli also breathes life into Ellie and Pax, despite how little time they’re actually on the page and despite the fact that, other than a phone call with Pax, neither of them appears in the book in real time. Pax lingers like a shadow, his presence felt throughout. There’s a sense of how much of Grey has been influenced by his foster brother, and Grey’s love for his foster sister is a driving force that’s as real as water or skin. 

Things do not go as planned, and the twists and turns along the way lead to an unexpected resolution for this novella, which is highly recommended. The print version has a bonus short story called “Between the Dark and the Daylight”, rounding out a worthy collection for crime fiction fans.