The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
The book in one sentence: In a world destined to die in 6 months, one man knows what to do: his job.
Synopsis of 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?
My two centsThe world will be decimated by a meteor in six months ... what would you do? Well, for new policeman Hank Palace, he knows exactly what he wants to do: he wants to solve an alleged suicide which seemed "off."
What sets this book apart is its premise. The simple but very basic question of what to do with your last six months was enough to get me to agree to review this. Such a provocative question ... the answers are bound to be intriguing!
A picture of pre-Apocalyptic US is painted clearly with people reacting to their impending deaths in diverse ways: from helplessness and depression and people turning to drugs; to the other extreme of living it up and doing crazy things; or simply spending more time with their families ... then we learn about people preparing in more pragmatic ways (think bunkers, large-scale, oh if only it were that simple!)
While this may sound depressing, I didn't dwell on that. I have thing for Agatha Christie novels, so this read more like a suspenseful and psychological whodunit to me, that just kept me flipping the pages. Note I read this in about 2 days because I couldn't put it down!
But back to Palace. Right off, I liked Hank Palace. He sets himself apart by not succumbing to the general helplessness of people. Following his gut feeling, he makes himself useful, and he starts investigating into the alleged suicide hanging of an unassuming insurance man named Peter Zell in a town dubbed "Hanger Town." But why did Zell hang himself with a brand new and expensive belt when he was wearing a tattered suit and hole-y socks?
Digging into Zell's life, Palace stumbles upon some rather surprising secrets, and he discovers what type of person Zell is ... and Palace is away on what his colleagues scoff as a rather senseless goosechase complete with red herrings. I was disappointed when later in the book that the whodunit was over. But wait, there is a twist! Of course there is!
It's a great start as the book sets us up for more in the two remaining books of this trilogy. Winters is a wonderful writer and while this is my first time to read his work, I'm sure it won't be the last.
Uh-oh: Hmmm, the dialogues can be a tad strange. I've never read so many holy moly's in a book before.
I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, nor a huge suspense/thriller fan either ... so maybe this is what held me back from thoroughly getting into the details. But if you love sci-fi details, then you are in for a treat with the progress of the meteor as it is approaching the earth, mathematical calculations, and probabilities. It's all very well-researched and felt a little geeky!
Verdict: A fast-paced and provocative whodunit set six months before the world's end.
First line: I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly, this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't.
Last line: I close the door.