The Last Policeman (Last Policeman Series #1)

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Overview

Winner of the 2013 Edgar® Award Winner for Best Paperback Original!

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?
 
Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months ...

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Overview

Winner of the 2013 Edgar® Award Winner for Best Paperback Original!

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?
 
Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.
 
The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.
 
The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

Winner of the 2013 Edgar Award for Paperback Original

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  • The Last Policeman
    The Last Policeman  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The best genre fiction holds a mirror up to society while also providing edge-of-the-seat excitement, and The Last Policeman did that and more.”—Las Vegas City Life

...a heck of a lot of fun.”—Locus

“Winters constructs a sturdy, functional, entertaining page-turner.”—Greg Cook, WBUR.org

“I'm eager to read the other books, and expect that they’ll keep me as enthralled as the first one did.”—Mark Frauenfedler, Boing Boing
 
“...darkly intriguing...”—Discover magazine

“Full of compelling twists, likable characters, and a sad beauty, The Last Policeman is a gem.”—San Francisco Book Review

“...resonant and powerful.”—Locus

“This is a book that asks big questions about civilization, community, desperation and hope.”—io9

“...an entertaining and well-plotted tale.”—Wired.com's GeekDad

“I'm in the middle of it and can't put the dang thing down.”—USA Today's Pop Candy
 
“...sharp, funny, and deeply wise.”—Slate.com

The Last Policeman succeeds both as a mystery, with a quirky detective and an intriguing whodunit, and as a piece of apocalyptic speculative fiction. That’s good news. The even better news is that this novel is supposed to be the first of a planned trilogy, with each case occurring closer to the moment when, as Henry repeatedly notes, ‘Bam!’ And that is something we can anticipate with a good feeling.”—Sacramento News & Review

“Winters is masterful in crafting a plausible image of a society that’s hanging onto sanity by its fingernails as it teeters on the edge of mass hysteria....This is a novel that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let you go until the very end.”—The Nashua Telegraph

“If the next two books are as good as this one, I can't wait for the end of the world.”—Asbury Park Press

“...a solidly plotted whodunit with strong characters and excellent dialogue...This memorable tale is the first of a planned trilogy.”—Booklist

“This thought-provoking mystery should appeal to crime fiction aficionados who like an unusual setting and readers looking for a fresh take on apocalypse stories.”—Library Journal

“Ben Winters vividly describes the decline of civilization in this pre-apocalyptic story, and spins a wonderful tale...This engrossing story is the first in a planned trilogy. It is a well-written mystery that will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment.”—NY Journal of Books

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States.”—Tor.com

“Ben Winters makes noir mystery even darker: his latest novel sets a despondent detective on a suspicious suicide case—while an asteroid hurtles toward earth.”—Wired magazine

“Normally, only Stephen King and Dean Koontz can suck me into a book and not release their stranglehold until I, exhausted from lack of sleep, have turned the last page. Now [Ben Winters] has joined their ranks...The Last Policeman is extraordinary—as well as brilliant, surprising, and, considering the circumstances, oddly uplifting.”—Mystery Scene magazine
 
Absolutely outstanding, I completely loved it from start to finish and I’m already rueing the fact that there will only be two more in the series...this gets the highest recommendation I can give. Buy it.”—In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

“A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy. For Winters, the beauty is in the details rather than the plot’s grim main thrust.”—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

From the Publisher
“The best genre fiction holds a mirror up to society while also providing edge-of-the-seat excitement, and The Last Policeman did that and more.”—Las Vegas City Life

...a heck of a lot of fun.”—Locus

“Winters constructs a sturdy, functional, entertaining page-turner.”—Greg Cook, WBUR.org

“I'm eager to read the other books, and expect that they’ll keep me as enthralled as the first one did.”—Mark Frauenfedler, Boing Boing
 
“...darkly intriguing...”—Discover magazine

“Full of compelling twists, likable characters, and a sad beauty, The Last Policeman is a gem.”—San Francisco Book Review

“...resonant and powerful.”—Locus

“This is a book that asks big questions about civilization, community, desperation and hope.”—io9

“...an entertaining and well-plotted tale.”—Wired.com's GeekDad

“I'm in the middle of it and can't put the dang thing down.”—USA Today's Pop Candy
 
“...sharp, funny, and deeply wise.”—Slate.com

The Last Policeman succeeds both as a mystery, with a quirky detective and an intriguing whodunit, and as a piece of apocalyptic speculative fiction. That’s good news. The even better news is that this novel is supposed to be the first of a planned trilogy, with each case occurring closer to the moment when, as Henry repeatedly notes, ‘Bam!’ And that is something we can anticipate with a good feeling.”—Sacramento News & Review

“Winters is masterful in crafting a plausible image of a society that’s hanging onto sanity by its fingernails as it teeters on the edge of mass hysteria....This is a novel that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let you go until the very end.”—The Nashua Telegraph

“If the next two books are as good as this one, I can't wait for the end of the world.”—Asbury Park Press

“...a solidly plotted whodunit with strong characters and excellent dialogue...This memorable tale is the first of a planned trilogy.”—Booklist

“This thought-provoking mystery should appeal to crime fiction aficionados who like an unusual setting and readers looking for a fresh take on apocalypse stories.”—Library Journal

“Ben Winters vividly describes the decline of civilization in this pre-apocalyptic story, and spins a wonderful tale...This engrossing story is the first in a planned trilogy. It is a well-written mystery that will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment.”—NY Journal of Books

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States.”—Tor.com

“Ben Winters makes noir mystery even darker: his latest novel sets a despondent detective on a suspicious suicide case—while an asteroid hurtles toward earth.”—Wired magazine

“Normally, only Stephen King and Dean Koontz can suck me into a book and not release their stranglehold until I, exhausted from lack of sleep, have turned the last page. Now [Ben Winters] has joined their ranks...The Last Policeman is extraordinary—as well as brilliant, surprising, and, considering the circumstances, oddly uplifting.”—Mystery Scene magazine
 
Absolutely outstanding, I completely loved it from start to finish and I’m already rueing the fact that there will only be two more in the series...this gets the highest recommendation I can give. Buy it.”—In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

“A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy. For Winters, the beauty is in the details rather than the plot’s grim main thrust.”—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

Publishers Weekly
An apocalyptic premise and a knotty murder mystery collide in the first title of a planned trilogy from Edgar Award-nominee Winters (Bedbugs). Considering there's an enormous asteroid (nicknamed Maia) on course to destroy earth within six months, suicide by hanging has become the preferred way for many to bow out before the party's over. But when insurance man Peter Zell is found hung inside a McDonald's men's room stall in Concord, New Hampshire, his neck through an upmarket belt, something about the scene makes detective Hank Palace suspect murder. A young, idealistic, by-the-book cop and a no-nonsense narrator, Palace sets out to find Zell's killer and bring about justice one final time—even if it's literally the last thing he does. Winters' bleak vision of a pre-apocalyptic society is laced with malice, unrest, and indifference. The economy spirals out of control, workers ignore their jobs, and Palace's colleagues on Concord's gutted police force urge him to drop the case and stop caring so much. But Palace refuses to let the future control his present, emerging as a likeable hero of the end times. A divergent subplot involving Palace's ex-girlfriend, his sister, and her radical conspiracy-theorist husband slows down the story, though its inclusion may be featured more prominently in the sequels. (July)
Booklist
...a solidly plotted whodunit with strong characters and excellent dialogue...This memorable tale is the first of a planned trilogy.
Asbury Park Press
If the next two books are as good as this one, I can't wait for the end of the world.
Wired magazine
Ben Winters makes noir mystery even darker: his latest novel sets a despondent detective on a suspicious suicide case—while an asteroid hurtles toward earth.
Mystery Scene magazine
Normally, only Stephen King and Dean Koontz can suck me into a book and not release their stranglehold until I, exhausted from lack of sleep, have turned the last page. Now [Ben Winters] has joined their ranks...THE POLICEMAN is extraordinary—as well as brilliant, surprising, and, considering the circumstances, oddly uplifting.
Library Journal
Newly promoted Concord, NH, detective Hank Palace is investigating a suspicious death that may be a murder or might be part of an epidemic of suicides. Both the promotion and the suicides are rooted in the fact that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and will destroy all life in a few months. Palace faces indifference from many of his colleagues who don't see the point of solving one death when everyone is under the same sentence. Winters (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) has crafted a compelling mystery with surprising twists and turns, but more impressively he has created a world slowly collapsing under the prospect of its imminent demise. The responses of individuals, institutions, and governments to the threat from the sky are all considered in the context of Palace's murder investigation. VERDICT This thought-provoking mystery should appeal to crime fiction aficionados who like an unusual setting and readers looking for a fresh take on apocalypse stories.—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594746741
  • Publisher: Quirk Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/13/2013
  • Series: Last Policeman Series , #1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 87,391
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times best-selling author Ben H. Winters won an Edgar Award for his debut mystery The Last Policeman. His YA novel The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman was also nominated for an Edgar Award. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and three children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Last Policeman


By Ben H. Winters

QUIRK BOOKS

Copyright © 2012 Ben H. Winters
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59474-576-8


Chapter One

I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't.

I narrow my eyes and I steady myself and I take him in again, shift on my haunches to get a closer look. The eyes and the glasses, the weak chin and the receding hairline, the thin black belt tied and tightened beneath the chin.

This is real. Is it? I don't know.

I take a deep breath, demanding of myself that I focus, block out everything but the corpse, block out the grimy floors and the tinny rock-and-roll Muzak from the cheap speakers in the ceiling.

The smell is killing me, a pervasive and deeply unpleasant odor, like a horse barn that's been splashed with French-fry grease. There are any number of jobs in this world still being efficiently and diligently accomplished, but the late-night cleaning of twenty-four-hour fast-food-restaurant bathrooms is not among them. Case in point: the insurance man had been slumped over in here, lodged between the toilet and the dull green wall of the stall, for several hours before Officer Michelson happened to come in, needing to use the john, and discovered him.

Michelson called it in as a 10-54S, of course, which is what it looks like. One thing I've learned in the last few months, one thing we've all learned, is that suicides-by-hanging rarely end up dangling from a light fixture or a roof beam, like in the movies. If they're serious, and nowadays everybody is serious, would-be suicides fasten themselves to a doorknob, or to a coat hook, or, as the insurance man appears to have done, to a horizontal rail, like the grab bar in a handicapped stall. And then they just lean forward, let their weight do the work, tighten the knot, seal the airway.

I angle farther forward, readjust my crouch, trying to find a way to share space comfortably with the insurance man without falling or getting my fingerprints all over the scene. I've had nine of these in the three and a half months since I became a detective, and still I can't get used to it, to what death by asphyxiation does to a person's face: the eyes staring forward as if in horror, laced with thin red spiderwebs of blood; the tongue, rolled out and over to one side; the lips, inflated and purplish at the edges.

I close my eyes, rub them with my knuckles, and look again, try to get a sense of what the insurance man's appearance had been in life. He wasn't handsome, that you can see right away. The face is doughy and the proportions are all just a little off: chin too small, nose too big, the eyes almost beady behind the thick lenses.

What it looks like is that the insurance man killed himself with a long black belt. He fastened one end to the grab bar and worked the other end into the hangman's knot that now digs brutally upward into his Adam's apple.

"Hey, kid. Who's your friend?"

"Peter Anthony Zell," I answer quietly, looking up over my shoulder at Dotseth, who has opened the door of the stall and stands grinning down at me in a jaunty plaid scarf, clutching a steaming cup of McDonald's coffee.

"Caucasian male. Thirty-eight years old. He worked in insurance."

"And let me guess," says Dotseth. "He was eaten by a shark. Oh, wait, no: suicide. Is it suicide?"

"It appears that way."

"Shocked, I am! Shocked!" Denny Dotseth is an assistant attorney general, a warhorse with silver hair and a broad, cheerful face. "Oh, geez, I'm sorry, Hank. Did you want a cup of coffee?"

"No, thank you, sir."

I give Dotseth a report on what I've learned from the black faux-leather wallet in the victim's back pocket. Zell was employed at a company called Merrimack Life and Fire, with offices in the WaterWest Building, off Eagle Square. A little collection of movie stubs, all dating from the last three months, speaks to a taste for adolescent adventure: the Lord of the Rings revival; two installments of the sci-fi serial Distant Pale Glimmers; the DC-versus-Marvel thing at the IMAX in Hooksett. No trace of a family, no photographs in the wallet at all. Eighty-five dollars in fives and tens. And a driver's license, with an address here in town: 14 Matthew Street Extension, South Concord.

"Oh, sure. I know that area. Some nice little town houses down that way. Rolly Lewis has a place over there."

"And he got beat up."

"Rolly?"

"The victim. Look." I turn back to the insurance man's distorted face and point to a cluster of yellowing bruises, high on the right cheek. "Someone banged him one, hard."

"Oh, yeah. He sure did."

Dotseth yawns and sips his coffee. New Hampshire statute has long required that someone from the office of the attorney general be called whenever a dead body is discovered, so that if a murder case is to be built, the prosecuting authority has a hand in from Go. In mid-January this requirement was overturned by the state legislature as being unduly onerous, given the present unusual circumstances—Dotseth and his colleagues hauling themselves all over the state just to stand around like crows at murder scenes that aren't murder scenes at all. Now, it's up to the discretion of the investigating officer whether to call an AAG to a 10-54S. I usually go ahead and call mine in.

"So what else is new, young man?" says Dotseth. "You still playing a little racquetball?"

"I don't play racquetball, sir," I say, half listening, eyes locked on the dead man.

"You don't? Who am I thinking of?"

I'm tapping a finger on my chin. Zell was short, five foot six maybe; stubby, thick around the middle. Holy moly, I'm still thinking, because something is off about this body, this corpse, this particular presumptive suicide, and I'm trying to figure out what it is.

"No phone," I murmur.

"What?"

"His wallet is here, and his keys, but there's no cell phone."

Dotseth shrugs. "Betcha he junked it. Beth just junked hers. Service is starting to get so dicey, she figured she might as well get rid of the darn thing now."

I nod, murmur "sure, sure," still staring at Zell.

"Also, no note."

"What?"

"There's no suicide note."

"Oh, yeah?" he says, shrugs again. "Probably a friend will find it. Boss, maybe." He smiles, drains the coffee. "They all leave notes, these folks. Although, you have to say, explanation not really necessary at this point, right?"

"Yes, sir," I say, running a hand over my mustache. "Yes, indeed."

Last week in Kathmandu, a thousand pilgrims from all over southeast Asia walked into a massive pyre, monks chanting in a circle around them before marching into the blaze themselves. In central Europe, old folks are trading how-to DVDs: How to Weigh Your Pockets with Stones, How to Mix a Barbiturate Cocktail in the Sink. In the American Midwest—Kansas City, St. Louis, Des Moines—the trend is firearms, a solid majority employing a shotgun blast to the brain.

Here in Concord, New Hampshire, for whatever reason, it's hanger town. Bodies slumped in closets, in sheds, in unfinished basements. A week ago Friday, a furniture-store owner in East Concord tried to do it the Hollywood way, hoisted himself from an overhanging length of gutter with the sash of his bathrobe, but the gutter pipe snapped, sent him tumbling down onto the patio, alive but with four broken limbs.

"Anyhow, it's a tragedy," Dotseth concludes blandly. "Every one of them a tragedy."

He shoots a quick look at his watch; he's ready to boogie. But I'm still down in a squat, still running my narrowed eyes over the body of the insurance man. For his last day on earth, Peter Zell chose a rumpled tan suit and a pale blue button-down dress shirt. His socks almost but don't quite match, both of them brown, one dark and one merely darkish, both loose in their elastic, slipping down his calves. The belt around his neck, what Dr. Fenton will call the ligature, is a thing of beauty: shiny black leather, the letters B&R etched into the gold buckle.

"Detective? Hello?" Dotseth says, and I look up at him and I blink. "Anything else you'd like to share?"

"No, sir. Thank you."

"No sweat. Pleasure as always, young man."

"Except, wait."

"Sorry?"

I stand up straight and turn and face him. "So. I'm going to murder somebody."

A pause. Dotseth waiting, amused, exaggerated patience. "All righty."

"And I live in a time and a town where people are killing themselves all over the place. Right and left. It's hanger town."

"Okay."

"Wouldn't my move be, kill my victim and then arrange it to appear as a suicide?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe, right?"

"Yeah. Maybe. But that right there?" Dotseth jabs a cheerful thumb toward the slumped corpse. "That's a suicide."

He winks, pushes open the door of the men's room, and leaves me alone with Peter Zell.

* * *

"So what's the story, Stretch? Are we waiting for the meat wagon on this one, or cuttin' down the piñata ourselves?"

I level Officer Michelson a stern and disapproving look. I hate that kind of casual fake tough-guy morbidity, "meat wagon" and "piñata" and all the rest of it, and Ritchie Michelson knows that I hate it, which is exactly why he's goading me right now. He's been waiting at the door of the men's room, theoretically guarding the crime scene, eating an Egg McMuffin out of its yellow cellophane wrapper, pale grease dripping down the front of his uniform shirt.

"Come on, Michelson. A man is dead."

"Sorry, Stretch."

I'm not crazy about the nickname, either, and Ritchie knows that also.

"Someone from Dr. Fenton's office should be here within the hour," I say, and Michelson nods, burps into his fist.

"You're going to turn this over to Fenton's office, huh?" He balls up his breakfast-sandwich wrapper, chucks it into the trash. "I thought she wasn't doing suicides anymore."

"It's at the discretion of the detective," I say, "and in this case, I think an autopsy is warranted."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah."

He doesn't really care. Trish McConnell, meanwhile, is doing her job. She's on the far side of the restaurant, a short and vigorous woman with a black ponytail jutting out from under her patrolman's cap. She's got a knot of teenagers cornered by the soda fountain. Taking statements. Notebook out, pencil flying, anticipating and fulfilling her supervising investigator's instructions. Officer McConnell, I like.

"You know, though," Michelson is saying, talking just to talk, just getting my goat, "headquarters says we're supposed to fold up the tent pretty quick on these."

"I know that."

"Community stability and continuity, that whole drill."

"Yes."

"Plus, the owner's ready to flip, with his bathroom being closed."

I follow Michelson's gaze to the counter and the red-faced proprietor of the McDonald's, who stares back at us, his unyielding gaze made mildly ridiculous by the bright yellow shirt and ketchup-colored vest. Every minute of police presence is a minute of lost profit, and you can just tell the guy would be over here with a finger in my face if he wanted to risk an arrest on Title XVI. Next to the manager is a gangly adolescent boy, his thick mullet fringing a counterman's visor, smirking back and forth between his disgruntled boss and the pair of policemen, unsure who's more deserving of his contempt.

"He'll be fine," I tell Michelson. "If this were last year, the whole scene of crime would be shut down for six to twelve hours, and not just the men's john, either."

Michelson shrugs. "New times."

I scowl and turn my back on the owner. Let him stew. It's not even a real McDonald's. There are no more real McDonald's. The company folded in August of last year, ninety-four percent of its value having evaporated in three weeks of market panic, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of brightly colored empty storefronts. Many of these, like the one we're now standing in, on Concord's Main Street, have subsequently been transformed into pirate restaurants: owned and operated by enterprising locals like my new best friend over there, doing a bustling business in comfort food and no need to sweat the franchise fee.

There are no more real 7-Elevens, either, and no more real Dunkin' Donuts. There are still real Paneras, but the couple who owns the chain have undergone a meaningful spiritual experience and restaffed most of the restaurants with coreligionists, so it's not worth going in there unless you want to hear the Good News.

I beckon McConnell over, let her and Michelson know we're going to be investigating this as a suspicious death, try to ignore the sarcastic lift of Ritchie's eyebrows. McConnell, for her part, nods gravely and flips her notebook to a fresh page. I give the crime-scene officers their marching orders: McConnell is to finish collecting statements, then go find and inform the victim's family. Michelson is to stay here by the door, guarding the scene until someone from Fenton's office arrives to collect the corpse.

"You got it," says McConnell, flipping closed her notebook.

"Beats working," says Michelson.

"Come on, Ritchie," I say. " A man is dead."

"Yeah, Stretch," he says. "You said that already."

I salute my fellow officers, nod goodbye, and then I stop short, one hand on the handle of the parking-lot-side door of the McDonald's, because there's a woman walking anxiously this way through the parking lot, wearing a red winter hat but no coat, no umbrella against the steady drifts of snow, like she just ran out of somewhere to get here, thin work shoes slipping on the slush of the parking lot. Then she sees me, sees me looking at her, and I catch the moment when she knows that I'm a policeman, and her brow creases with worry and she turns on her heel and hurries away.

* * *

I drive north on State Street away from the McDonald's in my department-issued Chevrolet Impala, carefully maneuvering through the quarter inch of frozen precipitation on the roadway. The side streets are lined with parked cars, abandoned cars, drifts of snow collecting on their windshields. I pass the Capitol Center for the Arts, handsome red brick and wide windows, glance into the packed coffee shop that someone's opened across the street. There's a snaking line of customers outside Collier's, the hardware store—they must have new merchandise. Lightbulbs. Shovels. Nails. There's a high-school-age kid up on a ladder, crossing out prices and writing in new ones with a black marker on a cardboard sign.

Forty-eight hours, is what I'm thinking. Most murder cases that get solved are solved within forty-eight hours of the commission of the crime.

Mine is the only car on the road, and the pedestrians turn their heads to watch me pass. A bum leans against the boarded-up door of White Peak, a mortgage broker and commercial real-estate firm. A small pack of teenagers is loitering outside an ATM vestibule, passing around a marijuana cigarette, a kid with a scruffy goatee languorously exhaling into the cold air.

Scrawled across the glass window of what used to be a two-story office building, at the corner of State and Blake, is graffiti, six-foot-tall letters that say LIES LIES IT'S ALL LIES.

I regret giving Ritchie Michelson a hard time. Life for patrol officers had gotten pretty rough by the time I was promoted, and I'm sure that the fourteen subsequent weeks have not made things easier. Yes, cops are steadily employed and earning among the best salaries in the country right now. And, yes, Concord's crime rate in most categories is not wildly elevated, month against month, from what it was this time last year, with notable exceptions; per the IPSS Act, it is now illegal to manufacture, sell, or purchase any kind of firearm in the United States of America, and this is a tough law to enforce, especially in the state of New Hampshire.

Still, on the street, in the wary eyes of the citizenry, one senses at all times the potential for violence, and for an active-duty patrol officer, as for a soldier in war, that potential for violence takes a slow and grinding toll. So, if I'm Ritchie Michelson, I'm bound to be a little tired, a little burned out, prone to the occasional snippy remark.

The traffic light at Warren Street is working, and even though I'm a policeman and even though there are no other cars at the intersection, I stop and I drum my fingers on the steering wheel and I wait for the green light, staring out the windshield and thinking about that woman, the one in a hurry and wearing no coat.

* * *

"Everybody hear the news?" asks Detective McGully, big and boisterous, hands cupped together into a megaphone. "We've got the date."

"What do you mean, 'we've got the date'?" says Detective Andreas, popping up from his chair looking at McGully with open-mouthed bafflement. "We already have the date. Everybody knows the goddamned date."

The date that everybody knows is October 3, six months and eleven days from today, when a 6.5-kilometer-diameter ball of carbon and silicates will collide with Earth.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters Copyright © 2012 by Ben H. Winters. Excerpted by permission of QUIRK BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This is a joint review of the first two books in the trilogy (no

    This is a joint review of the first two books in the trilogy (no spoilers).

    A deadly asteroid is bound for earth. There's no hope left: People are abandoning their jobs, their responsibilities, fulfilling bucket lists, committing suicide. Hank Palace is the only policeman left who considers the possibility of murder when 99% of crime scenes are suicides; the only policemen left who cares enough to bother solving the case.

    I can't believe I almost passed on the opportunity to read and review these two books. I'm kind of picky about mysteries, and crime fiction is usually not my thing, but the pre-apocalyptic angle intrigued me. I'm glad I took a chance, because I raced through these two books, reading them back-to-back.

    There are 6 months until impact in The Last Policeman, and only 2½ months left in Countdown City. As you can imagine, society deteriorates more and more as time runs out. Both books are riveting. Ben Winters strikes the perfect balance between mystery, thriller, science, and bringing the reader into a society on the brink of devastation. The tone is never too heavy, and certainly not too light. The dialogue is fantastic. And our protagonist? Hank Palace is as kind and caring as he is fierce (when necessary).

    Considering it is the first book in a trilogy, The Last Policeman had a surprisingly satisfying ending. It wrapped up in such a way that I could have easily put the series aside if I'd wanted, but that wasn't going to happen! Immediately upon finishing, I dived into Countdown City, which was equally as exciting.

    What's the difference between what's lawful and what's right? When everything seems pointless, and there's no profit or gain, what choices will people make? How will people choose to spend their last few months? There's a short but especially powerful scene of readers holing themselves up in a library, devouring as many books as possible.

    I couldn't read quickly enough, either: the first two books in Ben Winters's The Last Policeman trilogy are that good. I'm looking forward to reading the final installment.

    I received a copy of each book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2012

    Excellent Ok

    This book gives you the satisfaction of a good mystery while it challenges you to think about what you will do today and on your last day.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 18, 2012

    interesting read, the mystery is a bit thin

    The apoloptic concept is intriguing. Winters really captures the sense of impending doom as the meteor heads towards earth and portrays a picture of the different ways in whcih people deal with what is to come. At the same time, this is a murder mystery, or so you think - because it could be a suicide - which adds to the intrigue. The only problem is when I actually got to the part where I find out what happened, it just wasn't that credible. I thought Winters could have developed the mystery and the "crime" more cleanly and in a way that was believable. This is apparenlty the first of a trilogy, and i think it is a strong start and will read the next one when it comes out.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

    Wow, Excellent, Excellent, Original, OH !!, Uhm,

    OH !!, Uhm, Wait, Did I mention Excellent ?!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review Some people like Jersey Shore, an

    A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review

    Some people like Jersey Shore, and some like Survivor...me, I secretly love Post-Apocalyptic stories (movies or books). This is unique, it's Pre-Apocalyptic. There is a meteor heading for the Earth, and scientists know it's pretty much going to wipe everything out.

    So the question becomes, what would you do? People that have gone off to do the things they always wanted to before they die are said to have "gone bucket list." And there are tons of suicides and people quitting their jobs left and right. Personally I enjoyed all the corporations folding.

    The thing is, you still gotta eat and everything of course gets really expensive. So there are also a lot of people still working. The central character in The Last Policeman is a young man who really isn't long out of the academy. He is promoted to detective because...well...who else is there? He comes upon a suicide that just doesn't sit right with him. But we are kept guessing, is it a murder or is this cop just looking to investigate before the end comes?

    It's well written, fast paced and way better than the Jane Austen mash-ups. His book Bedbugs was really good too. This guy does a much better job on his own, that's all I'm saying. So go pick up a copy if you think you can handle this dark and lonely tale.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    What does a policeman do when he finds what has all the appearan

    What does a policeman do when he finds what has all the appearances of a suicide but in his gut he knows it's a murder? Add in that the end of the world due to an asteroid is impending and not many on the police force care much about solving this murder....and a reader has a spectacular book to read.
    This is the first book in a trilogy and I cannot WAIT to read the next two books. I really have to find out what happens to Detective Hank Palace, the last policeman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This novel's average mystery plot and functional writing are ove

    This novel's average mystery plot and functional writing are overwhelmingly redeemed by an exceptional, unforgettable premise. The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman doesn't need to redefine the police procedural to be successful; if anything, the book could have taken an even darker turn to set the tone for what's expected to come. Enjoyable as a distraction, but disturbing to dwell on -- the next two books had better deliver.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    great new Idea for a cop sci fi mystery story

    I really enjoyed the story. I'm glad I took a chance and ordered this
    book!

    You will enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Magic cover- will not allow you to put it down

    This is the first in a trilogy of an End of the World series. The Earth is in the path of an Asteroid and will be destroyed in six months. Everyone knows it, so ask yourself what would you do. Ben Winters' end of the world brings a halt to work for the most part. People retire and chase their dreams. Many, many go back to church.
    This is the story of a young policeman who is a new detective who, oddly enough, wants to keep working and solving crimes. You have to love him and his dedication while everything around him melts down.

    The next two books are set at 3 months and final. A friend of mine said to me that she does not read series until they are all out. I could not stop myself from this one- read the library copy and then bought a copy of my own. Brilliant in the many different observances of how people react to the knowledge of "THE END." Read it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Ben H. Winters. You might recognize this author's name - he pen

    Ben H. Winters. You might recognize this author's name - he penned the
    New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
    Winters' latest book The Last Policeman is just as imaginative and
    inventive. I've got a fondness for post apocalyptic fiction, but
    Winters has penned a pre-apocalyptic novel. The Last Policeman is set
    in the months before the world as we know it will end. It is inevitable
    - an asteroid is going to hit the earth and the impact will destroy our
    planet. What would you do, knowing the world was ending? Start ticking
    off items on your bucket list? End things on your terms? Henry Castle
    does none of that, instead he continues on as normal. He's a newly
    appointed detective on a police force that is dwindling, both in
    resources and manpower. When Henry is called to an apparent suicide, he
    can't shake the niggling feeling that this death may not be what it
    looks like. And in a world about to end, Henry pursues this case as a
    murder. Henry was such an engaging character - earnest, forthright,
    honest, polite, trusting and an anomaly in these times. Even though the
    world will end, he chooses to stay true to himself and his beliefs until
    the day that happens. Winters' plot is full of twists and red herrings.
    I truly enjoyed Hank's dogged and determined pursuit of the truth.
    "Right at this moment I have to decide, is the thing. Am I going to
    leave town and go north to Maine and find a house on Casco Bay and sit
    there and stare out the window with my sidearm and wait, or am I going
    to stay here and do my work and finish my case. My cases." I've
    read lots of post apocalyptic fiction, but it was interesting to read
    Winters' view of what the world might hold before that final blow.
    Winters gives us lots of food for thought in people's actions and words.
    There's a secondary plot involving Hank's sister, that I thought was
    filler until the last few chapters. It caught me off guard and piqued my
    interest for the next book, as The Last Policeman is the first in a
    trilogy. The Last Policeman was an unusual blend of sci-fi and mystery
    that just worked. I'm curious to see what else will happen before the
    asteroid hits.....or after.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2012

    Pre-apocalyptic police procedural with reading.

    What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end? Would you care if a stranger died under suspicious circumstances knowing everyone will be dying soon enough? These are the questions that haunt Detective Frank Palace in Ben H. Winters’, pre-apocalyptic detective tale, The Last Policeman. A truly unique police procedural set in a future nearing extinction. Our meticulous detective Palace is difficult not to like as he struggles with business as usual when life is anything but usual. A smooth flowing and engaging story specked with elevations in vocabulary that gives the novel a certain panache. I for one will be eagerly awaiting the next novel in Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 16, 2014

    I read this book not liking the setup, that with the end-of-the-

    I read this book not liking the setup, that with the end-of-the-world an imminent thing, some people would just go about their business, including the protagonist, Detective Hank Palace. The story made me believe it, and was so good, I finished it and wanted more. Good thing there are two more in the series.

    In a world where many are giving up, some killing themselves, some just checking out, Hank Palace still determines to investigate, even when a death looks very much like the run-of-the-mill suicide, all too common with the destruction of the world coming ever nearer.

    Superb storytelling, with complex characters and motives. Tries to make sense of a world where sense and meaning have all but disappeared. Gives nods to other world's end tales and songs. It's a great blending of science fiction and mystery, and one you'll enjoy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014

    Difficult read

    Current worry and tough view, although probably realistic. Not for habitual "worry-warts"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2014

    Page text count please as review suggested this was a novella

    or three long continued mag. type long stories disguised as one long book been done before by nook

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 15, 2014

    The protagonist of this book called to mind Arkady Renko (Gorky

    The protagonist of this book called to mind Arkady Renko (Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith), a cop compelled to do his job as society collapses around him.  It wasn't the most involved plot in the world, but it's a great premise. I wonder if it wouldn't have been stronger as a longer, stand alone novel. I kind of hate the trilogy of short books phenomena as it often makes for three watered down stories.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2014

    It a very slow book

    I felt like this book took me forever to read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Milfly entertaining

    Not bad for what seems like a writers first novel. Was expecting more of a twist when the murderer was revealed. Will buy the sequel just to see if and how the world ends. Hope it has more of a cleaver ending than the the first book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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