Title: The Last Policeman
Author: Ben H. Winters
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Dystopian, Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The world is ending in six months; an asteroid hurtling toward Earth is making sure of that, and there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do. Instead of having an existential crisis like so many others, Detective Hank Palace is perhaps the last member of his police force still interested in solving crimes. When a suicide case comes up that Hank is convinced is a murder, he’ll put everything he has on the line to prove that he’s correct.
A book with a fascinating backdrop, The Last Policeman focuses on what would happen if the world was ending. Hank’s devotion to his job makes him appealing to readers, and they’ll be intrigued by what he discovers along the way.
The Last Policeman is as much an examination of society as it is a murder mystery. If we learned that the world was ending, how would we react? What would happen to social niceties, to responsibility, to the things we do (even when we don’t want to) because they’ll make our futures better? These are the questions that Ben Winters poses in this novel, and they’re very thought provoking. As you can imagine, things are chaotic at best, as people abandon their jobs and shirk their responsibilities—but for some reason, many of them still care about money. There’s also been a rash of suicides, which is what Hank Palace is investigating.
It’s easy to think that the case that Hank gets is a suicide in The Last Policeman; it’s been happening everywhere, on a daily basis. But there’s something in Hank’s gut that tells him that’s not what’s happening here. The mystery part of the plot is very well done. It’s hard to imagine that, with the dramatic events that serve as the background for the story, a simple suicide (or murder?) could keep the reader’s interest equally. But Ben Winters balances his novel incredibly well, and as a result, readers will enjoy the juxtaposition of these two very different stories.
Hank is a great character to serve as the basis for this trilogy (The Last Policeman is the first of three books). It’s hard to get a read on him at the beginning of the book, but as it progresses, the reader sees how well developed he is. Winters made sure to make Hank very complex; readers will appreciate the nuance in his character. It will be interesting to see where Winters takes him over the next two books.
If you’re looking for an creative, clever, and thought-provoking read that’s simultaneously very entertaining, then The Last Policeman absolutely should be on your list. It’s a short read, but a great one; I’ll admit that I’m kicking myself for letting it go this long before reading it. The second book in the trilogy, Countdown City, is out now, and I can tell you I won’t be waiting long to pick it up.