We Begin at the End

Holt Mar. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9781250759665. $27.99. THRILLER
When Vincent King accidentally killed young Sissy Radley, he was convicted of murder and, as a 15-year-old, sent to a prison for adult men. Vincent’s life wasn’t the only one ruined; his best friend, Walk, and his girlfriend, Star, Sissy’s older sister, were also affected. Thirty years later, Walk is the ineffectual chief of police of Cape Haven, the small coastal California town he never left. He looks after Star, who is struggling with addiction, and Star’s two children (whose biological father is out of the picture): 13-year-old Duchess, who is tough as nails and is the main caretaker of her sibling, five-year-old Robin. When Vincent is released from prison and returns to Cape Haven, it’s a changed landscape. Unscrupulous developer Dickie Darke is gobbling up the coastal homes and messing with Star and her family; Walk hides a secret about his health. Then Star is killed, and Vincent is accused of her murder. He refuses to defend himself, so Walk sets out to prove his friend’s innocence. Meanwhile, the Radley children are sent far away to live with relatives, but Duchess knows that Darke will come after her.
VERDICT Stubbornly loyal Walk and worldly-wise Duchess are complex, well-developed characters, each searching for truth and justice. Reminiscent of Charles Portis’s True Grit, Whitaker’s (Tall Oaks) literary thriller will satisfy fans of modern Westerns and readers who like strong heroines.l
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