The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
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)
The Last Policeman was one of the novels I had a hard time reading. It’s not because the book was bad. I picked it up because it has an interesting premise— pre-apocalyptic America and a murder dressed as a suicide– and it was a fairly easy book to finish. The problem was, I couldn’t read it without feeling so down and near to tears.
The book’s setting is bleak and grim and the setting makes for a compelling backdrop that is both chilling and fascinating at the same time. Phone lines breaking down, ridiculous gas prices, a striking level of drug-use; the most common thing anyone would do is hang himself. It’s a very dark world to live in so I think my growing depression whilst reading this book isn’t silly. I’ve read darker books but this one gives you a sense of hopelessness up to the end.
“People’s inability to face up to this thing is worse than the thing, it really is.”
Detective Palace was an interesting fellow to follow. He’s that kid in your class who color codes his pens and raises his hand whenever your teacher asks a question. I couldn’t help but imagine him as young Jim Gordon from Gotham because they are so alike in thinking and solving cases. Even so, Palace was a difficult character to connect with and often times, I though him as rude and insensitive to other people’s feelings and cares about nothing else but his murder/suicide case. Mostly he’s an asshole, excuse me, but the author makes it look like he’s the righteous hero so I had a hard time wondering if I should like him or not. We gradually see him transition from a passionate and innocent detective to a weary guy who has gone through a lot of bad things in his short career as a policeman. The novel is more of a tragedy than a mystery as
Gordon Palace leaves a trail of dead bodies and broken people behind, including himself and the people he cares about.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars
The first book in the trilogy, TLP establishes its setting and hints for more things to come before the asteroid hits earth. Palace is certainly a character to look forward to and it’s curious what he’ll be doing from now on after his tragic case.
✓Lots of product placement
✓A quick read
About the Author
Ben H. Winters is the author of eight novels, including most recently World of Trouble (Quirk), the concluding book in the Last Policeman trilogy. World of Trouble was nominated for the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Countdown City was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction. The Last Policeman was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award, and it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate.
Ben’s other books Literally Disturbed (Price Stern Sloan), a book of scary poems for kids; the New York Times bestselling parody novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Quirk) and a novel for young readers, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman (HarperCollins), which was a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2011 as well as an Edgar Nominee in the juvenile category. In the spring or summer of 2016 he will publish a new novel, Underground Airlines. Website | Goodreads