Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Review: THE LAST POLICEMAN, by Ben H. Winters
The Last Policeman is the first of a trilogy and tells the story of Concord, New Hampshire detective Henry Palace, recently promoted after 15 months on the force. He's investigating the death of one Peter Zell, an introverted accountant found hanged in a McDonald's bathroom. It looks like he killed himself. I mean, it really looks that way, and everyone thinks Palace's crazy to investigate, because these days everyone is killing himself. It's the end of the world, after all.
No, it really is. In the book, scientists have predicted that a mammoth asteroid is six months away from destroying life on Earth. Anarchy is settling in. People are pulling up stakes, going "bucket list" to do the things they always wanted to do. Cults are forming. Hopelessness abounds. And suicides are way, way up, so much so that no one even questions Zell's death. No one does, except for Palace.
The Last Policeman is more than just a mystery. It asks some searching questions about the choices that people make- would make, could make- when faced with the collective, inevitable, date-is-on-the-calendar end. It also asks us about our own lives, since each of us faces the inevitability of death with or without an asteroid. Society's steady dissolution is a major feature of the book; Palace struggles with the cynicism around him and inside him as he pursues Zell's killer. He almost gives up. Who could blame him? It looks just like a suicide; maybe it is.
I was totally glued to this book from page one. It was a staff pick of a fellow bookseller and I'm so glad she recommended it because I don't think I would have picked it up otherwise. I liked the combination of pre-apocalyptic science fiction and crime, and the setting of small-town New Hampshire was perfect. When the world ends, it won't just end in New York City; it'll end for all of us and Winters makes us consider the figurative impact of this asteroid through different levels of society and in places that don't normally come to mind when we think of catastrophe. And he wraps it up in a truly riveting mystery that will keep you guessing. Highly recommended!
P.S. Volume 2, Countdown City, is out now; there is no release date that I know of for #3 but I plan to read them together. I have to know how it all ends!
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.