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We Begin at the End: Chapter Sampler

We Begin at the End: Chapter Sampler

Chris Whitaker

Henry Holt and Co.

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Download a free excerpt from Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End!

Right. Wrong. Life is lived somewhere in between.

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Rules are for other people. At school the other kids make fun of her—her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Duchess might be a badass, but she’s really just trying to survive. She is the fierce protector of her five-year-old brother, Robin. She is the parent to her mother, Star, a single mom incapable of taking care of herself, let alone her two kids.

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he and Star grew up. He’s the chief of police, trying to keep Cape Haven, with its beautiful bluffs overlooking the sea, not only safe, but safe from becoming a cookie-cutter tourist destination for the rich. But he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. And he’s in overdrive protecting Duchess and her brother as their mother slides deeper into self-destruction.

Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released. As soon as he steps one foot back into his childhood town, trouble arrives. It shows up on Walk’s and Duchess’s doorsteps, and they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

We Begin at the End looks at families—the ones we are born into and the ones we create. Duchess and Walk—and everyone they love and whose heart… More…

Download a free excerpt from Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End!

Right. Wrong. Life is lived somewhere in between.

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Rules are for other people. At school the other kids make fun of her—her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Duchess might be a badass, but she’s really just trying to survive. She is the fierce protector of her five-year-old brother, Robin. She is the parent to her mother, Star, a single mom incapable of taking care of herself, let alone her two kids.

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he and Star grew up. He’s the chief of police, trying to keep Cape Haven, with its beautiful bluffs overlooking the sea, not only safe, but safe from becoming a cookie-cutter tourist destination for the rich. But he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. And he’s in overdrive protecting Duchess and her brother as their mother slides deeper into self-destruction.

Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released. As soon as he steps one foot back into his childhood town, trouble arrives. It shows up on Walk’s and Duchess’s doorsteps, and they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

We Begin at the End looks at families—the ones we are born into and the ones we create. Duchess and Walk—and everyone they love and whose hearts they break, who deserve so much more than life serves them—will sear your heart in this extraordinary novel.

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Praise for We Begin at the End: Chapter Sampler

Praise for We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

“Two damaged children—one timid and sweet, the other foul-mouthed and furious—will break readers’ hearts in this well-plotted and perfectly-paced novel. If, like me, you love stories that kidnap your intended schedule because you can’t not keep turning the pages, then I wholeheartedly recommend Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End.”
Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author of I Know This Much Is True

“I LOVED this book. From the riveting plot to the beautiful writing. But mostly what kept me longing to get back to it each day were the characters, especially young Duchess. Fierce, brave, vulnerable, she leaps off the page fully formed. As does Walk. How aptly named. A chief of police on his own inexorable journey. This is a book to be read and reread and an author to be celebrated.”
Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“It's an instant classic….Let’s begin at the end. After you’ve turned the final page of Chris Whitaker’s magnificent new novel, you’ll struggle—I struggled, certainly—to describe the experience…it recalls the very best of Tana French and Dennis Lehane. Think of Duchess Day Radley as a twenty-first-century Scout Finch, tough and curious and good. In fact, think of We Begin at the End as a novel at the same time distinctly American and profoundly universal.”
A.J. Finn, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Woman in the Window

“A beautifully written mystery, pac… More…

Praise for We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

“Two damaged children—one timid and sweet, the other foul-mouthed and furious—will break readers’ hearts in this well-plotted and perfectly-paced novel. If, like me, you love stories that kidnap your intended schedule because you can’t not keep turning the pages, then I wholeheartedly recommend Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End.”
Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author of I Know This Much Is True

“I LOVED this book. From the riveting plot to the beautiful writing. But mostly what kept me longing to get back to it each day were the characters, especially young Duchess. Fierce, brave, vulnerable, she leaps off the page fully formed. As does Walk. How aptly named. A chief of police on his own inexorable journey. This is a book to be read and reread and an author to be celebrated.”
Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“It's an instant classic….Let’s begin at the end. After you’ve turned the final page of Chris Whitaker’s magnificent new novel, you’ll struggle—I struggled, certainly—to describe the experience…it recalls the very best of Tana French and Dennis Lehane. Think of Duchess Day Radley as a twenty-first-century Scout Finch, tough and curious and good. In fact, think of We Begin at the End as a novel at the same time distinctly American and profoundly universal.”
A.J. Finn, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Woman in the Window

“A beautifully written mystery, packed with unforgettable characters. An intricately woven portrait of small-town intrigue where old and new sins collide.”
Jane Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The Dry

“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.”
John Hart, author of six New York Times bestsellers

“Beautifully written, We Begin at the End really reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird. And the spirit of Scout is very much alive in Duchess.”
Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

“…Couldn’t put it down. Incredible writing, characters so brilliantly drawn they jump off the page. Outstanding.”
B. A. Paris, bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors

“Thirteen-year-old Duchess is a brave, defiant character so vividly drawn that she fairly bounces off the page…”
The Guardian (UK)

“This masterpiece of a novel proves that Whitaker has a rare talent deserving of wider recognition. I will be amazed if I read a better novel this year.”
Daily Express (UK)

“A masterpiece of storytelling with clever twists and an ending to knock you sideways!”
Candis Magazine (UK)

“Written with the panache of James Lee Burke, this heartrending story set in one of the poorest parts of rural America is among the most powerful and moving I have read in years.”
The Daily Mail (UK)

“This is a remarkable novel, in which the doomed tragedies of ordinary American lives blaze with pity and humanity. Duchess—a fierce, furious and fragile teenager—is the dazzling heart of the tale, as troubled cop Walk tries to bring her mother’s murderer to justice while coming to terms with his shared history with the alleged killer. With violence and sorrow in equal measures, it’s beautifully written and deeply moving.”
Sunday Times (UK)

“Brutal yet beautiful, this painfully human tale cements Whitaker’s status as one of the most talented authors writing today.”
Heat Magazine (UK)

“This is an epic drama and a profound masterpiece. I’ll be amazed if I read a better novel this year.”
Daily Mirror (UK)

“Ruminative, poignant, masterly novel.”
Sunday Express (UK)

“A dark yet painfully human tale that is impossible to forget.”
Crime Monthly (UK)

“The depiction of children superb; of the adults who seek to protect or exploit them: perceptive, cutting, objective, colorful. Reading this book is like watching a long film, every frame the product of a fusion between receptive brain and honed words…this one ranks below Steinbeck but above Hemingway.”
Shots Magazine (UK)

We Begin at the End is the most beautifully written book I have read this year…with characters that will tug at your heartstrings, an incredible sense of place, and a cleverly plotted mystery, Chris Whitaker is proving himself to be one of the most talented writers around.”
Lisa Hall, author of Have You Seen Her

“A triumph. I couldn’t read it fast enough, while still appreciating the absolute beauty and depth to it. I don’t know where to begin—the total satisfaction of the plot, the absorbing story, the cast of unbelievably incredibly characters, the sheer taste of America on the page. So, I’ll begin at the end, and the fact I cried straight through those last few chapters. Duchess, Robin, they killed me. It’s an absolute masterclass in crime writing and storytelling.”
Jo Spain, author of Six Wicked Reasons

“Chris Whitaker excels in muscular small-town American Noir. In We Begin at the End, we see that fascination with the gnarly American heartland reach new heights. Whitaker displays his mastery over style; his unique flair and eye for telling detail is comparable to a form of literary method acting. The story unwinds to a peak of tension and ends with a series of revelations that hit like a flurry of punches to the gut. A sense of tragedy infuses the story and this, more than anything, makes it one of the year’s best crime reads.”
Vaseem Khan, author of the Baby Ganesh Agency series

“Sometimes a book finds its way to you when you need it most, and teaches you a lesson you didn’t even know needed teaching. We Begin at the End is one of those books, and it truly is a masterpiece.”
Isabelle Broom, author of A Year and a Day

“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. This intensely captivating story and its uniquely intriguing characters holds you in its jaws till the very last word. Astonishingly good.”
Ruth Jones

“Stunning, intoxicating, heartbreaking—without a doubt one of my favorite books of the year…We Begin at the End is in a class of its own.”
T. M. Logan

“A stunning and heartbreaking book—will keep you gripped until the last moving page.”
Claire McGowan, #1 bestselling author of What You Did

“An exceptionally beautiful and accomplished crime novel. I fell head over heels into its big black heart and will carry the characters with me for a long time to come yet.”
Ali Land

“A very real, very rare talent.”
Sarah Hilary

“If ever there is a book that deserves all the prizes, this is it. So layered and nuanced, and brimming with characters so full of depth they breathe on the page. So heartbreakingly evocative of small town life and the secrets buried under the weight of old friendships and tangled loyalties. Stunning writing, both poetic and compelling. A damn near perfect crime novel.”
Fiona Cummins

“What a novel! Such a remarkable achievement. So wonderful in so many ways, with writing that is Booker Prize good. I kept having to stop and go back and re-read bits because I wanted to experience them again. I enjoyed it so much and the characters now have a place in my heart, I’m sad not to be able to spend any more time with them (Duchess especially). Wow. There is no f**king justice if this book is not a smash hit.”
Deborah O’Connor

We Begin at the End is as perfect a novel as you’ll read all year. Devastating and hopeful in equal measure, with pitch-perfect characters you’ll root for at each jaw-dropping turn—Duchess, in particular, deserves a fast-track pass to the literary hall of fame. A sophisticated, utterly absorbing read.”
Caz Frear

“Breathtaking, heart-wrenching, heart-warming and laugh-out-loud funny, We Begin at the End is simply astonishing. Easily the best book I’ve read this year.”
M. W. Craven, CWA Gold Dagger winner

“A sensational book. Addictive, beautifully-written and immersive. So many layers. So many fascinating characters. Chris Whitaker is an immensely talented writer.”
Will Dean

“An absolute belter of a book. Superb, heartbreaking, astounding and gripping. Chris Whitaker has totally nailed it.”
Gytha Lodge

“Astoundingly beautiful. No other writer can pull you in quite so well as Chris Whitaker. The writing is pure and sharp, the characters perfectly drawn, the story unforgettable.”
Rebecca Tinnelly

We Begin at the End is stunning—thrilling, moving, beautifully written.”
Paul Burston

“Emotionally wrung out after reading We Begin at the End. Chris Whitaker is one of the few authors who can genuinely make me cry. Rock on Duchess and Thomas Noble…this may be my book of the year.”
C. J. Carver

“Hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever read. In my life. There’s a bit at the end which is so overwhelmingly sad I can barely breathe just thinking about it. An absolutely astonishing novel and the writing is breath-taking.”
Rebecca Thornton

“Chris Whitaker takes crime writing to new levels in this evocative and lyrical novel, which is not only beautifully written but cleverly plotted, with a climax you’ll never guess.”
Mark Edwards

“Gasp-enduring drama and laugh-out-loud humor, Duchess Day Radley is now my favorite character in fiction by far.”
Tom Wood

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Reviews from Goodreads

Chris Whitaker

Chris Whitaker lives in the United Kingdom with his wife and three young children. When not writing he works part-time at a local library, where he gets to surround himself with books.

image of Chris Whitakero
©David Calvert Photography

Chris Whitaker