Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Fiction Review: The Last Policeman

I had heard recommendations for The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters from several different sources, including the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and author Jason Rekulak at Booktopia 2017 ... and it won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original in 2013. Since my husband loves mysteries and suspense, I gave it to him as a gift, and he liked it so much that I also gave him the second book in the trilogy, Countdown City, which he also enjoyed. Now, I finally had a chance to read this unique pre-apocalyptic detective story for myself.

Hank Palace has only recently been promoted to detective for the Concord, NH, police department, but he's completely committed to this job he's wanted all his life. So committed, in fact, that he's still working even though the world will end in six months. There's a giant asteroid headed for Earth, and at this point, there is nothing that scientists or governments can do about it. It's so big that no matter where it hits (everyone is waiting for the estimate), it will cause catastrophic changes all over the world, and life will never be the same. Life is already completely different, as people everywhere leave their jobs to chase their dreams. Hank is called out early one cold March morning to a local McDonald's (which, like all chains, is now a pirated shop) to the scene of an apparent hanging in the men's room. Suicides have become horribly common in this new world, and for some reason, hanging seems to be the method of choice in their town. The officer on the scene and the assistant attorney general who arrives both immediately write it off as yet another suicide, but Hank isn't so sure. There are tiny details at the crime scene that give him pause, so he sends the body to the medical examiner, amid his colleagues' teasing. Hank continues to investigate this seeming-suicide as a suspicious death, and the more he learns, the more complicated things seem. Could this possibly be a murder or is Hank wasting time investigating one of many suicides happening everywhere?

This classic detective novel is set in such a unique and surreal world that it makes for some very compelling reading. While Hank is following clues and interviewing people of interest, the reader gradually gets a fuller picture of what is happening in this small town--and all over the world--as the human race faces an apocalypse. The details are fascinating and lend themselves to many what-if questions. The mystery at the center of the novel is a good one: twisty and intriguing. Hank brings the reader right along with him, wondering what happened to this guy and becoming a bit obsessed with finding out. And, of course, at the heart of the novel is the question, Why does it matter? I enjoyed going along with Hank as he solved this case, and I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy.

318 pages, Quirk Books

Brilliance Audio

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This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:


Mount TBR Challenge

Monthly Motif Challenge - murder or magic?

2022 Literary Escapes - New Hampshire

R.I.P. Challenge

Fall Into Reading Challenge - science fiction


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  1. I am making a note about this book, it is one I want to read.

  2. I think if the world were ending in 6 months, I'd stop working and not worry about solving a mystery, but this one sounds good.

    1. A lot of his colleagues made that decision, Helen!