The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (pub date 7/10/12)
“People are building rocket ships, people are building tree houses, people are taking multiple wives, people are shooting indiscriminately in public places, people are setting fire to themselves, people are studying to be doctors while doctors quit work and build huts in the desert and sit in them and pray.”
What would you do if you knew the world was going to end in six months? How do you think the rest of the world would react? In this “pre-apocalyptic” novel, Ben H. Winters (author of Bedbugs) poses these very questions.
The Last Policeman is about a world on the brink of collapse. Set in the present day, an asteroid nicknamed “Maia” is on a collision course with Earth, and will cause devastating damage to the entire planet when it hits in about six months. Needless to say, almost the whole world’s population has gone into panic mode. Major economies have collapsed, communications services have deteriorated due to neglect, and suicide rates are sky-high. Most people are going “bucket list” and quitting their jobs to pursue their own passions before their imminent demise. But Detective Hank Palace has a “keep calm and carry on” attitude. For him, every day is just another day on the job, and that job includes solving a murder that he believes was made to look like a suicide.
When a man is found hanged in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant, Hank suspects foul play and launches a thorough investigation. As he uncovers clues, he faces resistance and ridicule from his fellow police officers, who don’t see the point in solving the case when the world is going to end anyway. Gradually, the story points to larger questions: the value of human life, the value of maintaining composure in the face of disaster, and the value of being a good person even if it doesn’t seem to matter.
The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman is imaginative and absorbing. I was so engrossed in it that I finished it in less than 24 hours. It’s well researched, smart, and exciting at the same time. Hank is an interesting character, but also a tough nut to crack. He’s a good man, but not above bending the rules a little for the greater good of solving the crime. We’re given a little taste of Hank’s past and how it affected him, but ultimately we don’t know that much about him. Since there is a trilogy planned, I’m hoping to see more of Hank’s character development in the second book.
If you enjoy science fiction, mysteries, or just plain good storytelling, you need to read this book. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that there is much more to the story than the murder mystery, and when these other storylines are fleshed out I think the trilogy will be amazing.
**Want more? Be sure to read my interview with Ben H. Winters, coming later this month!***