We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker #BookReview #BlogTour

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

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?

I am absolutely delighted to be hosting the blog tour for We Begin At The End today. Huge thanks to Chris Whitaker, Zaffre Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel received through Netgalley.

We Begin At The End is a murder mystery but it is so much more besides the hunt for who and why; this exceptional book about the forgotten people in small town America is also about the ripples which are created by crimes and how their effects eventually become tsunamis, damaging everyone in their path.
Duchess Radley's story begins before she is born; her family is hit by tragedy when seven-year-old Sissy is killed. One of the townspeople out looking for her is fifteen-year-old Walk, who wants to be a cop. Thirty years later, he is the police chief of Cape Haven, the man who killed Sissy is due for release from jail and her sister, Star is a broken woman, barely hanging on. Duchess is Star's teenage daughter and is undoubtedly the stand-out character of the novel. Belligerent and mistrusting, she protects her small family as if she's a feral alley cat. She is the one who has to put her mother to bed and clean up her vomit and she makes sure her little brother, Robin is fed, washed and is picked up from school every day. The town looks on, both pitying and judging this family on the brink of imploding and it's only really Walk who is there for Duchess but she's seen how men treat Star and doesn't even really trust him. She's the self-styled outlaw, Duchess Day Radley and she seeks revenge whenever she feels her mother or brother have been wronged.
It's her anger and desire for vengeance which proves to be the catalyst for events which change Cape Haven and the people who live in it, forever. A vicious murder shocks the town to its core and Vincent King - the man recently freed from his jail sentence for killing two people looks to be the likely perpetrator. Chief Walk doesn't believe his childhood best friend is guilty, despite the evidence to the contrary and is determined to discover what really happened  - whatever the cost may be.
Chris Whitaker's evocation of small town America is extraordinary, he perfectly captures the essence of a place where everybody knows one another and are all connected one way or another. It's claustrophobic and yet few manage to escape, living out their days complaining about their neighbours. It's also a town, like many others which is struggling to survive economically and the residents are faced with a dilemma as to whether they accept outside money or resist change and attempt to struggle on. At the heart of this is Dickie Darke, a beautifully nuanced character who exudes danger yet he - like many of the other people in this piercingly observant book - has other facets to who he truly is besides the immediately obvious.
Walk and Duchess are very different characters - he is staid, she is bold, he is settled, she's restless and yet these complex, compelling characters are almost mirror images of one another. As the novel progresses, we see that they are both damaged by a past they had little control over. Walk tries to hang on to his memories of how things were before tragedy occurred while Duchess has wrapped herself in a hard shell, with only her beloved Robin allowed to see her softer side.
We Begins At The End isn't a fast-paced read, the action unfolds gradually and Chris Whitaker layers his novel with love, hope and humour alongside the pain and despair; there's a wonderful scene where Duchess attends a school dance and it's every bit as awkward and endearing as you'd expect. There is a menacing undertone of danger throughout, however and there are moments which broke my heart. Duchess and Walk are both victims of circumstance; her cynicism and his faith in his friend's innocence slowly being chipped away even when it seems any hope they feel may cruelly destroy them.
We Begin At The End is an outstanding work of fiction which examines how far people are prepared to go to protect those they love and the lies they are prepared to tell themselves and others to achieve that. It's about love and hate, agony and hope, and is inhabited by unforgettable characters living out their complicated, troubled lives in a place described with such vivid authenticity, it's hard to believe the author is British. There are some novels which get under your skin but We Begin At The End does more than that, it permeated my bones and touched my soul. What an absolute privilege it was to read this extraordinary book, it will undoubtedly be a huge success and deservedly so, whatever I say won't fully do it justice it deserves so my advice is to read it yourself  - then thank me afterwards!

We Begin At The End is published by Zaffre Books and can be purchased from Amazon, Waterstones, Kobo and Hive but if possible, particularly during this difficult time, please consider ordering from one of our wonderful independent bookstores.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city.
His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger.
Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.