‘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?
For weeks, my Twitter timeline has been FULL of people who have been shouting about how much they’ve loved this book and it’s been hard to keep to my reading schedule and be disciplined as I knew that it was going to be something really special before I even opened it. I loved Linda Hill’s review and agreed with every single one of her superlatives.
I absolutely love Chris Whitaker’s writing and adored Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls and if you haven’t read them, you need to add them to your TBR pile without delay as both of them deserve every single one of their plaudits and more – so when Tracy Fenton asked me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for We Begin at the End, I absolutely bit her hand off…
Although I was totally absorbed in the story in We Begin at the End, it is undoubtedly the beauty and song in Chris Whitaker’s writing that makes it such a treat to read. The story of Duchess and her brother, Robin is so perfectly realised that it was hard at times to remember that they are fictional characters rather than real people whose lives had become entwined with mine.
Duchess is one of those rare characters that embed themselves in your heart, despite the situations that she manages to get herself into and your heart really goes out to her when you understand just how awful a situation he has managed to get herself into. The dual setting of Cape Haven and Montana was painted so poetically that I could imagine myself there, hearing Duchess talk or listening to the advice from ‘Walk’ – Chief Walker. She really came alive for me and my heart broke for her like it would for a real person due to all of the things she had to put up with and all the mistakes she made across the course of her life story…
Duchess is never presented as just the sum of her experiences, I think that it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that we are rooting for her throughout the novel as we see all of the potential within her. Her relationship with the characters around her are convincingly and movingly depicted and the dark humour in some of these interactions gives tiny chinks of relief in what can be at times a relentless and tough read. Duchess’ sense of decency and protective side are really brought out through the way that she looks out for Robin as their mother, Star is too lost and hopelessness to provide them with any real kind of care or comfort at home and Duchess is basically the only real parent that he has.
As well as her relationship with Robin, we are also given a very vivid insight into her relationship with her grandfather, Hal – who might be far removed from Duchess in years but whose connection and empathy is as close as can be. What I loved about this book was that we get to see that wise words don’t always come from the most learned of folks and that justice isn’t always even-handed in the way that it provides for people – what they deserve and what they get is sometimes farther apart than we could ever imagine. Be warned – at several places this book is definitely going to break your heart
You will definitely find it hard to put this book down as you’ll be so wrapped up in this timeless story about fairness, family and loss that you’ll need to keep reading and find out how it all ends. Walk is not a character to give up easily, no matter the circumstances, so it’s safe to say that there were parts of this novel that I read with a thudding heart and sweaty palms as I was not sure how it was all going to end. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and I’m really jealous of anyone who’s yet to start reading We Begin at the End as they are definitely in for an absolute treat.
I recommend this artfully crafted and emotionally resonant novel to people who really like to get their teeth into a story that is as far from formulaic and predictable as it is possible to be. In the present reading climate, many books can seem very same-y and this book certainly stood out a mile. I loved the deft characterisation as much as I enjoyed the plot and I will definitely be recommending it to friends of mine who enjoy a page-turning read with a real heart. Bravo, Chris – it’s only April but this heartfelt book is a guaranteed contender for my ‘Best of 2020’ list already.
You need to buy this book, that is my lockdown advice for you – use this time profitably and treat yourself to an absolutely amazing read. Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me on the tour – you could have heard my squeals of delight for miles when I was confirmed. All i can do now is count down to Chris Whitaker’s next tale – but We Begin at the End will take some beating, that much is for sure…
I LOVED it . . . so intricately, delicately written, with such care and affection for all the characters. I adored all the relationships and ALL the characters without exception . . . his descriptions are so vivid, so visual, so beautifully drawn.We Begin at the End is surely destined to conquer the world. This intensely captivating story and its uniquely intriguing characters holds you in its jaws till the very last word. Astonishingly good, Ruth Jones
The character of Duchess Day Radley is so beautifully written, she will remain with you for a long time, Lynda La Plante
I love Duchess Day Radley so much I want to adopt her. She is every thirteen-year-old girl at risk, an outlaw both pure of heart and ill of intent, a fierce and melancholy girl, so memorable she will make camp in your brain and never leave. In We Begin at the End, Chris Whitaker has written a gorgeous, crystalline novel, a cautionary tale about the long shadows cast by our past selves, and one defiant girl with the bravery to hope for something better. I love this beautiful book, Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt
Chris Whitaker’s third novel, We Begin at the End, is the kind of breakout book that publishers dream about. Rich with character and story, conflict and tension, humor, tragedy and raw, unadulterated guts, this one has it all. Throw in the most compelling young protagonist I’ve read in at least a decade, and you have a deep and meaningful story that is an absolute delight from first page to last. Nicely done, Mr. Whitaker!, John Hart
I hate this man. I mean, I really hate him because this is the sort of book that makes you feel like you’re not trying hard enough as an author. Just amazing, C J Tudor
Writer On The Shelf
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.