We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker [7/10]

British novelist Chris Whitaker’s third thriller/mystery, “We Begin at the End,” is an evocative melange of noir, small-town cop mystery, and generational saga. Chief “Walk” Walker is the cop of New Haven, a prototypical small town in California. Three decades earlier, his best friend was jailed for killing a girl and now is being released, embroiling Walk in mystery and trauma. Plunged into tragedy and protecting family, Duchess, the daughter of the dead girl’s sister, is the author’s other protagonist, a feisty, conflicted one. Whitaker’s style is pared down yet lyrical, with a palpable air of loss and yearning. The Californian setting and also a second-half Montana locale are conveyed pithily and solidly. A Dickensian roster of characters all occupy their own space. We Begin at the End offers multiple mysteries, and the plot twists are complex and never-ending in the way that good mysteries achieve, but I do have the feeling that some readers will feel the story mechanics thrive too much on surprise. All in all, this is a graceful, propulsive read.

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