We Begin At The End – Chris Whitaker

You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved . . .’

For some people, trouble just finds them . . .

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California.

Not everyone is pleased to see him.

Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother.

But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of how much I love Chris Whitaker’s first two books.

Tall Oaks kept me up until nearly 3am to be finished in a single sitting. It’s a beautifully wrought tale of small-town America, shot through with a deft line in wit and with what were to become some of my favourite characters in a book, ever. Manny and Abe, I’m looking at you.

His sophomore novel, All The Wicked Girls was just as good, if not better. Deep and complex, harrowing and heartbreaking, a story of a young girl’s hunt for her missing sister in a small southern bible belt town. Chris Whitaker does small-town America really really well, though he was born in London and lives in Hertfordshire.

So now we come to We Begin At The End. Reader, I was really really looking forward to this book, and I was enormously fortunate to get my hands on an early copy, which I started reading on December 31st, 2019. And finished at 1.30am on January 1st.

Which puts We Begin At The End in the rather unique position of not only being the best book I read in 2019, but also the best I’ve read in 2020.

Reader, it’s just so, so good. Whitaker’s skill at evoking small town Americana, polished and honed over the course of the first two books, absolutely shines here. I loved the characters in the first two books, but here we meet Duchess Day Radley, the outlaw. And she’ll take over your heart. At once older than her years, yet still a vulnerable young girl, she’s strong and fierce, and carries this book on her shoulders magnificently.

Then there’s Walk, the police chief. Vincent King, his friend who went to jail for the murder of Duchess’s aunt Sissy. Star Radley, Duchess’s mother. All brilliantly drawn, flawed, rich characters in their own right.

Whitaker’s ability to create these unforgettable characters, coupled with a story so achingly beautiful and utterly brilliant that you’ll struggle to find better.

We Begin At The End should be on your reading list for this year. And it should be on all the award shortlists. Whitaker is a phenomenal writing talent, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

I’d give this six stars if I could, and it would deserve every one of them and more.

Hugely recommended. I will pester you to read this book.

We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker is published by Zaffre in April 2020. Huge thanks to Zaffre for the review copy.

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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