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?
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The Last Policeman
By Ben H. Winters
QUIRK BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Ben H. Winters
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI'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."
"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.
"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."
"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."
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."
"Wouldn't my move be, kill my victim and then arrange it to appear as a suicide?"
"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."
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."
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."
"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.
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.
What People are Saying About This
“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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
A police procedural in a very tense setting!
Thought it was a great premise for a novel and Winters did a very good job with the story. Hadn't read others of his but I would after reading this one.
Roughly fifty percent of the world¿s population will be dead in a few months. You are a police detective. People are still murdering each other for the same old reasons. Do you really want to spend all your remaining time and energy catching the bad guys? Is there any point? Well, freshly minted Police Detective Hank Palace believes there is, and although everyone else is eager to call Peter Zell¿s death a suicide, he does not buy it.Maia, the massive asteroid officially known as 2011GV, is on a collision course with the earth and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. Even the date of the devastating crash (expected to have the blast force of 1,000 Hiroshima explosions) has been publicly announced. All that remains to be made public is Maia¿s strike-point. Surprisingly, although public services are disappearing, food supplies are shrinking, and the economy is crashing, a reasonable semblance of everyday life continues. An increasing number of people, however, have decided to check out early by taking their own lives. More often, they just stop coming to work, preferring, instead, to spend the remaining time with their families or doing the things on their bucket lists.Hank Palace is not the only law enforcement officer still on the job in Concord, New Hampshire, but he is one of the few who still cares about locking criminals up now that every sentence longer than six months is effectively a sentence of life without parole. He is certain that, as the streets become more dangerous with each passing month, the certainty of dying in jail if caught in even a minor criminal act is the only thing that keeps people even as safe as they still are.The Last Policeman is the first book of a planned trilogy within which Ben Winters will explore what might happen when everyone knows in advance the exact date of a catastrophe that will lead eventually to the end life on the planet. In this pre-apocalyptic introduction to the series, the United States (and presumably, the rest of the world) is already a bleak place. Most of the characters in this dark novel reflect the bleakness of their environment, one in which nothing can be taken for granted and no individual taken at face value. The Last Policeman has been characterized as a pre-apocalyptic police procedural, and that is exactly what it is. Detective Palace¿s quest to prove his hunch that Peter Zell did not kill himself - to which the bulk of the novel is dedicated - is complicated by society¿s irreversible breakdown. The crime lab is backed up for weeks, and has been falling farther and farther behind schedule as apathy becomes the norm and workers desert their jobs. Investigators are willing to accept the easiest, most obvious answer for any suspicious death encountered. Insurance companies, determined to deny as many claims as possible (in order to use the cash to pay employee salaries), make it obvious to the police that they prefer a finding of suicide over murder.Through it all, Hank Palace¿s determination to do right by the dead man, helps to maintain a bit of order in a world that will move closer to the brink of destruction in the second book of the series.Rated at: 4.0
What would you do if you knew your days were numbered? If you were Henry Palace, you would keep doing your job. All Henry has wanted to do, since his mother was killed when he was twelve, was be a police officer. He has recently been promoted to detective after only one year and three months as a patrol officer. Many people from all walks of life are walking off their jobs to complete the items on their "bucket lists" before Maia, a huge asteroid, impacts somewhere on Earth on Oct. 5. And those who are still on their jobs are often suffering from depression and a complete lack of interest in the job. Suicide has become increasingly common.When Henry is called to a suicide in a McDonald's restroom, he thinks something is wrong. He believes that insurance man Peter Zell was murdered and he is determined to investigate no matter what obstacles might be in his way. And the obstacles are many. There are false trails, red herrings, government plots and a variety of obstructive witnesses.Henry is an admirable character. He is persistent. I do wonder how much his devotion to finding out the truth is his way of coping with the very uncertain future. It was also fascinating to watch the world around him fall apart as essential services fail and society disintegrates. I recommend this one for dystopia fans and for mystery fans as well. It was a very compelling read.
I loved the premise of this book and really thought that this would be a book that I would love. Unfortunately this book was only alright. Most of the time I was reading this book I was only vaguely interested in it, I was never hooked. I liked the main character, Hank Palace, but couldn't really connect with any of the other characters. I was satisfied with the end of Hank's investigation into the death of Peter Zell however the ending of the book was definitely unsatisfying. This book was ok but it just wasn't for me.
The world is in tumult due to the impending collision with an asteroid, which is expected to demolish a large section of the Earth and lead to the probable end of life on the planet. Despite the coming apocalypse, young detective Henry Palace pursues the death of a man, an apparent suicide, sure that the death was actually murder. Many red herrings are pursued until Palace finally captures the guilty party and exposes the details of the case. I confess that the predominant thought that stayed with me throughout the reading of this book was that I would have found another way to spend the last six months of my life than Palace did ¿ sustaining several beatings, a car crash, and the thought that any arrest would be nearly irrelevant. After all, what punishment would be worse than what was coming for all of humanity? Author Ben H. Winters does a good job of establishing Palace¿s motivation and paints an engaging portrait of the young man, but I still was left with that thought.Winters also aroused my skepticism by having a ¿black law¿ in force in what appears to be modern-day America, a law whose provisions are known only to those inside the government. Think of that in view of our current dysfunctional national government and our Constitution. The epilogue is an obvious set-up for subsequent volumes in this planned trilogy. Let me know how Earth survives. If it does.
Surprised the hell out of me!
This was a great start for this trilogy. While you follow the main character, you hope for him despite what is coming. It makes you ask yourself how you would react.
Well written. A nice twist on apocalyptical writing. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
Interesting Concept in a fairly saturated genre & a likable protagonist. It felt a bit "clunky" at times but provided a decent reading experience. That said, I'll probably skip the rest of the series.
The Last Policeman tells the story of Hank Palace, a detective from a small town in the state of Washington that is obsessed in trying to solve a supposed suicide of a insurance policy analyst in a McDonald's bathroom, one that he suspects to be actually a homicide. This would be an ordinary police story if it wasn't for Maia, an asteroid that is set to strike Earth in half a year and basically extinguish life on the planet. The Last Policeman raises the question: What is the point in trying to solve a homicide in a world where everyone is doom to die? Palace frequently faces this disregard attitude from other cops, more concerned with news from the asteroid than actually working. He even becomes a joke among his colleagues, that call his investigation an attempted homicide; because he is "trying to make it into a homicide", when they are perfectly fine with branding it at a suicide and leaving it at that. I liked a lot this creative "pre-apocalyptic" scenario that shows a society that still functions, but that is dying a bit every day. There is a growing collapse on the telephone system, gas has run out and only government vehicles work, violence and drug use runs rampart, some try to stock up on weapons and food and face the Apocalypse, suicides become commonplace. The book takes care not to dump too much information on the reader, but space it as the narrative goes on. There are several turns on the story, all very well integrated. Palace also does not go into the classic detective stereotypes, like a Sherlock Homes wannabe or a noir anti-hero. He is a rookie and knows it. He follows false leads on his investigation, is conned and loses clues that were right in front of him. But by sheer obstination he manages to stride forward where others gave up. The Last Policeman is the first book on a trilogy and I am curious to see how author Ben H. Winters will continue the series. He already said that each book will deal with a crime and show the disintegration of the world and how this influences with Hank's work. But I guess what I liked the most about The Last Policeman was how it portrayed the humble death of a insurance policy analyst in a world worried about bigger issues. Detective Hanks is not Bruce Willis in Armageddon, he has no illusions about saving the world or trying to save anything. He is just a guy trying to live one day after the other while he still has days to live. Something that, asteroid or not, I think we all could benefit from.
Henry Palace thought he had a future, a future to recover from his past. Being a cop was his calling and he felt he could be good at it. But now the world has just learned that an asteroid will hit Earth in just a few months and suddenly, nothing is the same. While many decide to quit their jobs to hit their bucket list or simply give up on life, Henry Palace finds himself a detective, and he is determined to do his job regardless of the circumstances. When he is called to a suicide scene, some details seem to point to a more complicated solution. Palace investigates against the advice of his colleagues and the world that is collapsing around him. Some people, however, think that there is a way to save the world, a plan that the government is trying to hide. Nico, Palace’s tortured sister is a member of a group trying to locate and free a scientist who pretends to know how to reroute the asteroid. Even if the mystery part of the books is rather simple and more of a pretext, Winters succeed in telling a tale of the end of the world that is as sad as it is fascinating. The books in the series are set at three different moments of the countdown to doomsday and give a realistic and complex view of how a civilisation collapses when day to day routines of life are replaced by hopelessness and chaos. The Last Policeman is a series that will stay with me for a long time and has already provided many conversation topics with my family.
Ben H. Winters “The Last Policeman” is a traditional whodunnit murder mystery – with one huge twist. A huge asteroid is heading towards Earth; life as we know it will largely be wiped out after impact which has been determined to be approximately 6 months in the future. Society, government, supply-and-demand … all have altered as the possibility of the end of the world grew from a slight possibility to a certainty. After all that, who would care about just one more suicide in Concord, New Hampshire? One cop – recently and rapidly promoted from patrol to replace the growing number of early retirees from the force, along with the growing number of people deciding to end it all before the meteor does. This book can be read on two levels – police procedural, and societal study. (I hate to say “Science Fiction”, since there is very little science involved. Take away the mathematics of watching the asteroid approach, and science plays almost no role in this book. I could write a whole second review simply talking about the characters in this book – their thoughts, their actions, their interactions, and how masterfully the author works them … but I'll avoid the temptation of drawing out this review any longer than it already is. This is the first book in a trilogy. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the second book in the series along with the first, but based on my enjoyment of this tale I am already searching out the 3rd book. RATING: 5 stars. DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book free of charge without obligation, although the publisher did hope (without obligation) that I would be willing to read and review it for them.
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.