I’m so excited to be taking part in the blog tour for We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker. A huge thank you to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part. I managed to pick up an early proof at Harrogate last year so thank you to Bonnier Zaffre. My blog buddy today is Linda over at Linda’s Book Bag so feel free to check out her post. Before I attempt to give you my review, here’s the blurb.
With the staggering intensity of James Lee Burke and the absorbing narrative of Jane Harper’s The Dry, We Begin at the End is a powerful novel about absolute love and the lengths we will go to keep our family safe. This is a story about good and evil and how life is lived somewhere in between.
‘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 never find it particularly easy to find the right words for reviews. It becomes even harder when the book shines with such brilliance. Tall Oaks showed us that Chris Whitaker can write a darkly comedic Crime story. All the Wicked Girls had the humour stripped away revealing a beautifully written tragic tale. I didn’t think it was possible for Chris Whitaker to step it up but he has in We Begin At The End. I read it slowly, desperate to eek it out, longing for it not to end.
Whitaker immerses us in the lives of Duchess Day Radley and her younger brother, Robin. Aged 13 and 5 respectively at the beginning of the story, their lot in life is pretty bad. Their mum, Star, is in a bad way and so Duchess looks after her little brother. They get by – just. Until one night when a beaten-up Star returns from her bartending job at a local club. Duchess makes a decision which leads to a chain of catastrophic events for her family and her home town of Cape Haven. Chief Walker, known as Walk, is the other main narrator who has to battle his childhood loyalties with justice and his failing body. I don’t want to tell you too much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
I found myself totally wrapped up in these characters’ lives. I didn’t want it to end. It was like having a slice of the best chocolate cake in the world and choosing not to gobble it down in one go but eating just a small amount each time. And when I did finally finish reading it at bedtime, my husband looked at me and said, “Well, you won’t be going to sleep just yet.” My emotion was clear and if he hadn’t been there, I probably would have sobbed.
But it’s not just the characters and the plot that make this book so special. It’s the actual writing. All of Chris’ books have been set in small town America so his words have that lilting American tone. There were times when I just stopped reading because of the beauty of the words. As I’ve read a proof I’m not really allowed to quote but this sentence is so incredible and it doesn’t give any spoilers (and I checked with Chris’ editor).
‘At Caroga Plain a man with a guitar got on and asked the few if they minded and they all shook their heads so he sang about golden slumbers, his voice rough but something in it stripping the roof from the old bus and letting the stars fall in.’
See what I mean? How am I supposed to write a review that does this book justice? The truth is, I can’t. There is only one word I can give it – extraordinary. But more than that, Chris Whitaker is an extraordinary writer.
You can buy We Begin At The End here.
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.