"We Begin at the End," | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
“We Begin at the End” is a thriller with richly drawn characters and a plot that builds to a believable, shocking conclusion. After a confusing start, that might require a reread, Chris Whitaker is off and running, introducing residents of Cape Haven, a seaside town in California marked by progress some want, others don’t.
Police Chief Walk keeps order there, or attempts to—but a ghost dogs him. Thirty years have passed but he still feels responsible for his childhood friend Vincent King serving time. King accidentally hit a young girl and Walk testified against him in court. As the book opens, King is being released from prison.
Adding to Walk’s guilt is his concern for Star Radley, the drug-addicted older sister of the girl that died. Star takes up with unsavory men, and Walk worries about her kids, Duchess, age 13, and her little brother Robin, who’s 5—the two have been told they have different fathers, unnamed men with no interest in the children.
Duchess has developed a hard edge and refers to herself as “the Outlaw,” threatening anyone who crosses her, or tries to hurt her mother or brother. Duchess and Walk try to help Star, but Star’s on a crash course, blaming everything she suffers on King.
Walk remains loyal to his longtime friend, and when a murder rocks Cape Haven, and everyone blames King, Walk throws himself into the investigation determined to clear his friend’s name, and keep Duchess and Robin safe when Duchess commits a crime driven by revenge.
Whitaker is adept at creating empathic characters readers will grow to care for. Duchess is scrappy and tough, yet vulnerable, as is Walk, a nice guy whose strength and coordination is tested by an undisclosed, progressive illness, this as he attempts to build a case against a powerful man in town.
All the narrative threads come together in “We Begin at the End,” the action building as the pages turn. Those who enjoy thrillers by Tom Franklin, Wiley Cash and Ron Rash are sure to welcome this entry into the genre by an author who measures up to their talents—a writer to watch.