Title: The Last Policeman
Author: Ben H. Winters
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books; First Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
Source: Publisher, in exchange for an honest review
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? [Goodreads]
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ReviewI just finished reading The Last Policeman and all I can think is “Wow, that’s one awesome epilogue.” Why does the epilogue stand out to me so much? Well, I just can’t put my finger on it. The book as a whole was pretty good. But the epilogue, wow. I can say I wouldn’t have liked the book as much without the epilogue.
In The Last Policeman are two of my favorite genres smash, mixed, and crammed together. Sometimes it was a good fit, others it felt a little clumsy. The pre-apocalyptic world was an insane choice of a time period to set a detective novel, but Winters made it work in his favor. The people’s thoughts, actions, choices were so relevant and real. I couldn’t decide what I would do or how I would choose to live with the impending annihilation of part or all of the world. Winters portrayed those emotions with such grace and poise. I am shocked still at how honest the book felt.
Where I had the hardest time believing in The Last Policeman was the last policeman himself. Hank Palace was a cop through and through. New to the detective job, eager to do right by the department. And, honestly, he was too goody-goody. He felt a little like the kid in school that was always trying to be the teacher’s pet that just about all the other kids didn’t like. Palace came across a little like that, only a little more jaded, a little more beaten down by the world at large. I just couldn’t get the “why” he was so bent on solving the case, beyond his “it just doesn’t feel right” answer. I get that there’s an instinct to police officers, a gut feeling that helps guide their inquiry, but with the end of the world as they knew looming a few months off, why be so obsessed with solving an apparent-suicide? It took me awhile to get through the first half of the book because I just couldn’t invest myself since I didn’t understand Palace’s motives.
I enjoyed reading his journey. The second half of The Last Policeman is marvelous. I couldn’t stop reading it. As the story reveals itself to the reader, there’s still some mystery that Winters holds back, some details that only take place in Palace’s mind. The “ah ha” moments that we are not privy often are exposed in a brilliant flash and had me in shock at the truth of the situation. Winters is quite the master at storytelling.
The writing style has a smooth, simple elegance to it. There are some technical astrophysical-type of things related to Maia, but things roll pretty easily. A few times the pace picks up and pages fly, but for the most part it’s like a nice stroll through the end of the world.
I am glad that Rebecca suggested I review this book. I haven’t yet read something quite so unique in the genres it falls into or the way it’s written.
Get to reading,
Fans of dystopian/pre-dystopian; Fans of crime drama/detective novels