The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Detective Henry Palace is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, he can't shake the feeling that it's murder. But with an asteroid due to hit the Earth in six months, no one really cares and with the infrastructure crumbling, Palace has his work cut out for him...
It's taken me way too long to give Ben Winters' existential detective tale a shot. I'm kicking myself for it but the upside is the second book is already out and the third comes out in two months.
The Last Policeman could easily have been called "The Last Man Who Gives a Crap." With only six months to go, society is crumbling. When people stop doing their jobs, things go to hell in short order. With a disintegrating cell phone network, exorbitant gas prices, and extreme jail terms for most offenses, Henry Palace has his work cut out for him.
The writing is hard boiled with a taste of Herman Hesse. Palace, and most of the other cops, question what the hell he's doing trying to prove a suicide was actually a murder with only six months left on the clock. I think it's the case of one man finally getting to do what he's always wanted to do and not giving that up just because the world is going to end in half a year.
The setting were pretty well thought out. Lots of people are abandoning their jobs and going bucket list. Lots of people are committing suicide, making Palace's case a bottom priority.
The case is solveable but it's a tough nut to crack. When an insurance actuary is the victim, you know he's not living an exciting life. Palace works the case despite all the naysayers and several attempts on his life, having some meaningful moments with his sister and a friend of the victim along the way.
It's the first book in a trilogy but doesn't really feel like it. Enough seeds are sown for the two subsequent books but The Last Policeman is fairly self-contained.
It's funny. It's not often I rate a book so highly when I'm not overly fond of the main character. On one hand, I understand doing what you've always wanted to do. On the other hand, I have a feeling Henry Palace was probably a tattle-tale in grade school before graduating to hall monitor upon reaching high school. Still, I like the guy, even if he is a by-the-book tight ass.
Four out of five stars! Bring on Countdown City!
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