PUBLISHER: Quirk Books
RELEASE DATE: 10th July 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 316 pages
GENRE: Pre-Apocalyptic, Mystery
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 by Ben H. Winters is a crime novel set in a dystopian version of America, where one of the last remaining police officers is desperate to carry on solving cases despite the impending calamity.
There is an asteroid headed for Earth that is hovering just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, with the world’s scientists predicting its arrival date at October 3rd. The novel takes place in March, with only a few months remaining ‘til impact, and the entire world is in chaos. People have walked out of their jobs to fulfil their bucket lists whilst others are committing suicide so they don’t have to face the end of the world.
Detective Hank Palace is one of the few policemen left in Concord, a fairly young cop who has risen through the ranks in the aftermath of the asteroid’s announcement. He is dedicated to his work and still thinks that the police have an important job to do to cope with the state of society. However, not all of his colleagues share the same opinions any more, and are more than happy to let cases go unsolved. This makes Hank somewhat of a lone wolf, going against his commander’s orders to make sure cases are resolved.
He is called to a case of believed suicide when a corpse shows up in the men’s toilets of the local McDonald’s, appearing to be a simple suicide case. The body is that of an insurance worker who is found with a belt around his throat, and considering the large influx of suicide cases there is little speculation about the cause of death. However, when Hank looks closer at the body he realises that there could be grounds for a murder inquiry, as there elements that just don’t add up. It is then that he gets involved in what could be the biggest case of his career, as there is more to this case than meets the eye.
Hank was very much an isolated protagonist, as we are only given his first person perspective throughout the book and the world is very much against him as he is the only one who wants to thoroughly investigate this case. I liked how driven he was to find the answers and his level of ambition, and the fact that he wasn’t dwelling on the asteroid but trying to continue as normal. Hank was quite a strong character, but at times his desperation does show through as he continues to battle against forces he can’t control.
I did quite like the plot of the book, as we have a suicide case that could in fact be a murder, which gives Detective Palace a lot of questions to find the answers to. The mystery is well-written, as the writer drip-feeds the reader new information about the case at an appropriate pace, and I liked how this gave the case more depth. For example, there is the implication that drugs could have been involved, leading Palace down different lines of investigation to dangerous individuals.
However, despite liking this book a lot there were still some elements that I didn’t like, particularly relating to the plot. It felt like Hank was obsessing over this case with undue cause, as he didn’t know the victim and it seemed like he was going to unusual lengths. As a reader I didn’t feel an emotional connection to the case, so wasn’t willing Hank to solve it as I maybe could have been, and wanted to know more about the asteroid. I was disappointed that the culprit in the case was obvious, as I had guessed their identity well before the book’s ending. Despite this the book was a good read, and is written well enough to keep you turning the pages and want to know what really happened.
I enjoyed reading this book as the dystopian setting made it different to usual crime fiction. It raised the question of whether solving the case still mattered if there would soon be no one left to deal with the aftermath. The main character is up against it when no one else believes his case could be a murder rather than suicide, and I loved his determination to prove himself.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- The Last Policeman
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