I bought We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker just before Christmas because I had read some good reviews, almost despite the fact that it was voted Crime Thriller of the year 2021. It sounded different from your usual crime novel, so it quickly made its way to the top of my TBR pile.
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?
It took me about a hundred pages to get into We Begin at the End. At first I did not find the characters at all engaging and I found the abbreviation, 'Walk' for Sheriff Walker irritating throughout the book.
However, I came to like and trust the town Sheriff, Walk. It was interesting that he, Vincent and Star had all been at school together and he had known many citizens of the town since his childhood.
He also knew the families of those he protected, their children, parents and grandparents their secrets and stories.
The main story follows the broken life of Star Radley whose life and mental health fell apart when her ex-boyfriend, Vincent, killed her sister and was sent to jail when he was only fifteen years old. Star lives alone with her children, Duchess and Robin and sings in bars and prostitutes herself to bring in meagre amounts of money to feed and clothe them.
Duchess is thirteen and Robin only five, but they regularly have to fend for themselves because Star is incapable of caring for them. Duchess does her best to care for her mother and brother and keep up with her schoolwork but life is difficult for them all. Life gets even worse when Star is murdered and the children have to leave the town they know and everything and everyone that is familiar to them and go to live with their grandfather.
Duchess takes to the move particularly badly, but when things go from bad to worse, she longs again for lost times.
We Begin at the End has a fine twist to fifnsh that I honestly didn't see coming. I don't write spoilers, suffice to say this is an excellent novel that I highly recommend. It would make for excellent discussion in a book group too. So, if you enjoy good, modern crime fiction, We Begin at the End is a book that should be on your reading list.
Chris Whitaker is the award-winning author of Tall Oaks, All the Wicked Girls, We Begin at the End, and The Forevers (YA).
His debut Tall Oaks won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award.
An instant New York Times bestseller and the #1 Indie Next Pick, We Begin at the End was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick and a Good Morning America Buzz Pick. The novel won the CWA Gold Dagger Award, the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year, and the Ned Kelly International Award.
We Begin At The End has been translated into twenty-five languages, with screen rights going to Disney.
Chris lives in the UK with his wife and three children.
Follow him on Twitter @WhittyAuthor