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The Last Policeman: A Novel (Last Policeman Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Ben H. Winters
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (666 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"[The] weird, beautiful, unapologetically apocalyptic Last Policeman trilogy is one of my favorite mystery series."—John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns

Winner of the 2013 Edgar® Award Winner for Best Paperback Original!

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?

Ebook contains an excerpt from the anticipated second book in the trilogy, Countdown City. 

Books In This Series (3 Books)
Complete Series

  • Editorial Reviews Review

    Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: It’s not often you hear a book described as a pre-apocalyptic police procedural. But in the hands of Ben Winters (Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters), the mash-up of murder mystery and gloomy end-of-world melodrama works perfectly. Detective Hank Palace knows the world will likely be destroyed in six months by the meteor headed toward earth like a bullet. But unlike those who are giving up, quitting jobs, doing drugs, running away, or killing themselves, Palace has a job to do. He’s got a murder to solve. So he keeps plugging away, unwilling to let the looming apocalypse distract him from finding the killer. Palace is an appealingly off-kilter character, more goofball than hard-boiled. So it’s a very good thing that this is the first in a planned trilogy. --Neal Thompson

    Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Ben H. Winters

    The Last Policeman is set in a world in which a massive asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, but the novel centers on one detective's murder investigation. Where did you get the idea to combine these two disparate elements of storytelling?

    Well, you know, story ideas are like giant planet-dooming asteroids: they always take you by surprise. But I've always had a soft spot for certain kinds of science fiction, books that imagine one grand change to the human situation and tease it out. P. D. James's Children of Men is a marvelous example, or Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series. 

    The "pre-apocalyptic" side of this "pre-apocalyptic murder mystery" definitely came first. I thought it would be fascinating to imagine my way into the sad and terrifying last months of civilization. Then I set about imagining the right hero for this kind of book, and I thought that what I needed was someone who is extremely dedicated to his work, who cannot let the world end before solving the puzzle before him. That's where the character of Detective Henry Palace came from, my intensely, even bizarrely dedicated public servant.

    The obligatory question: What would you do if Earth would be annihilated in six months?

    Well, I'm under contract with Quirk Books to write the sequel to The Last Policeman, so first I'd get that done. 

    Just kidding. I think, honestly, that I would spend time with my children. I'd read them a lot of books, and take them to beautiful places, and try to prevent them from hearing anything about what was coming. (The idea of that, by the way, makes me tearful, as it did periodically over the course of writing this.) 

    Can you give us any details about the upcoming second and third novels in the series?

    Like The Last Policeman, each of the sequels will have at its center a crime that Palace is trying to solve. But, also like this one, each will be at least equally interested in the details of the disintegrating world, and in plumbing the psyche of this lawman: how and why he remains "on the job" even as the job, along with the rest of civilization, crumbles around him.


    “The best genre fiction holds a mirror up to society while also providing edge-of-the-seat excitement, and The Last Policeman did that and more.”—Las Vegas City Life

    ...a heck of a lot of fun.”—Locus

    “Winters constructs a sturdy, functional, entertaining page-turner.”—Greg Cook,

    “I'm eager to read the other books, and expect that they’ll keep me as enthralled as the first one did.”—Mark Frauenfedler, Boing Boing
    “...darkly intriguing...”—Discover magazine

    “Full of compelling twists, likable characters, and a sad beauty, The Last Policeman is a gem.”—San Francisco Book Review

    “...resonant and powerful.”—Locus

    “This is a book that asks big questions about civilization, community, desperation and hope.”—io9

    “ entertaining and well-plotted tale.”—'s GeekDad

    “I'm in the middle of it and can't put the dang thing down.”—USA Today's Pop Candy
    “, funny, and deeply wise.”—

    The Last Policeman succeeds both as a mystery, with a quirky detective and an intriguing whodunit, and as a piece of apocalyptic speculative fiction. That’s good news. The even better news is that this novel is supposed to be the first of a planned trilogy, with each case occurring closer to the moment when, as Henry repeatedly notes, ‘Bam!’ And that is something we can anticipate with a good feeling.”—Sacramento News & Review

    “Winters is masterful in crafting a plausible image of a society that’s hanging onto sanity by its fingernails as it teeters on the edge of mass hysteria....This is a novel that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let you go until the very end.”—The Nashua Telegraph

    “If the next two books are as good as this one, I can't wait for the end of the world.”—Asbury Park Press

    “...a solidly plotted whodunit with strong characters and excellent dialogue...This memorable tale is the first of a planned trilogy.”—Booklist

    “This thought-provoking mystery should appeal to crime fiction aficionados who like an unusual setting and readers looking for a fresh take on apocalypse stories.”—Library Journal

    “Ben Winters vividly describes the decline of civilization in this pre-apocalyptic story, and spins a wonderful tale...This engrossing story is the first in a planned trilogy. It is a well-written mystery that will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment.”—NY Journal of Books

    The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States.”—

    “Ben Winters makes noir mystery even darker: his latest novel sets a despondent detective on a suspicious suicide case—while an asteroid hurtles toward earth.”—Wired magazine

    “Normally, only Stephen King and Dean Koontz can suck me into a book and not release their stranglehold until I, exhausted from lack of sleep, have turned the last page. Now [Ben Winters] has joined their ranks...The Last Policeman is extraordinary—as well as brilliant, surprising, and, considering the circumstances, oddly uplifting.”—Mystery Scene magazine
    Absolutely outstanding, I completely loved it from start to finish and I’m already rueing the fact that there will only be two more in the series...this gets the highest recommendation I can give. Buy it.”—In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

    “A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy. For Winters, the beauty is in the details rather than the plot’s grim main thrust.”—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

    Product Details

    • File Size: 1637 KB
    • Print Length: 322 pages
    • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 10, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0076Q1GW2
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Not Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,987 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    93 of 100 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars It's the end of the world in this clever novel June 30, 2012
    Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
    In six months, the scientists announce, an asteroid is going to hit the earth and end life as we know it. That's the premise for this clever, enthralling novel.

    Knowing that death will arrive in six months has lots of people simply walking off their jobs. Heading out to enjoy whatever hours remain or fulfill a Bucket List of places to see.

    Not Palace, however, the main character, who has always wanted to be a police detective and now has his chance.

    Concord, New Hampshire has become a 'hanger town". People who chose suicide rather than endure what may be a horrific death after the asteroid hits. One of these hangers is Peter Zell, who apparently commits suicide at McDonald's.

    But Palace refuses to accept Zell's death as yet another suicide. Instead, he starts investigating. Zell, it turns out, seems to have been a rather likable fellow, a quiet nerd who worked for an insurance company, alphabetized his cereal and had few friends.

    Everyone, including the medical examiner, agrees that Zell is a suicide. The fact is: no one else seems to care. About anything much, in fact, now that the end is so near.

    What really draws you into the book is the way the author spins out the background of what happens when everyone knows death will come in six months. For example, the government has frozen the prices for restaurants. So why would anyone bother to show up and make the food and serve it? The $1,000 tips.

    People respond to the looming catastrophe by "doing all sorts of things, for motives that can be difficult or impossible to divine clearly.
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    28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Good Mystery and Suspense with a twist! July 25, 2012
    Hank Palace is not amoungst the norm when he finds out the world is going to end due to an asteriod hitting earth within the next six months. The norm all abandon their jobs and spend what time they have left with their families and living out their dreams. Hank is a police officer and although the world is ending, the crime has not stopped, and he refuses to abandon his job of protecting his community. In fact, he's consumed with solving a murder, that is being said to be a suicide, but Hank believes otherwise, he believes it was cold-blooded murder.

    I loved Bedbugs by Ben Winters, and in fact it was one of my favorite books of last year, so that being said I had extremely high expectations of this book going into it, and I think because I built it up so much it fell a bit flat for me. I was really hoping the end of the world/post-apoctolyptic aspect was going to be the main focus, but instead I felt like it was more about Hank solving the mystery behind the suicide/murder.

    That being said, I'm still a huge fan of Ben Winters writing, his writing style is phenomenal, and although this book wasn't really my cup of tea, I know for the right reader this could be a five-star book. His writing draws you in, and for those that like true-crime/mystery novels, I think you would love this book.
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    40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Seeking a killer at the end of the world July 3, 2012
    Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
    Detective Hank Palace is dedicated to his job of finding killers, despite having the best reason in the world not to care: A 6.5-kilometer-wide asteroid is due to strike Earth in six months, eventually wiping out all human life. Humanity struggles on, trying for a semblance of normalcy amid impending doom. People are killing themselves to avoid going through what will happen when the asteroid strikes.

    One of those apparent suicides is Peter Zell, an actuary for an insurance firm who is found hanged in a restroom stall at one of the few McDonald's still open in Concord, N.H. It looks like an open-and-shut case -- and, really, why should Palace make the effort to prove otherwise, despite the bruises on the man's face that might indicate he was murdered? Only a few cops still work at the CPD. Others have walked off the job, gone "bucket list" to enjoy their last few months of existence. But Palace perseveres, and the clues to murder start piling up.

    This is an absorbing novel, a rippingly fast read with strong characters who are dealing with the toughest of situations in their own ways. Author Ben Winters paints a convincing picture of what life would be like in the U.S. under these circumstances, with small hints about what's going on in other parts of the world. Some areas already are in chaos. Money doesn't mean what it once did to Palace, though it's still, to his surprise, important to others. People who normally would not engage in risky behavior such as drug-using are saying, "Why not?" Palace works hard to maintain professional behavior despite knowing that, even if he catches the killer, that person will only spend a short time in jail -- if jails still exist.

    It would have been easy for Winters to go overboard on the world destruction theme, but he didn't, so the story reads like reality. This is the first of a trilogy, and it will be interesting to see how the theme plays out in the remaining two books.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars An Existential Murder Mystery--Almost July 20, 2012
    "What would you do with just six months until the end of the world?" This, apparently, was the question that Ben H. Winters put to various pundits while preparing his book, THE LAST POLICEMAN. The question suggests science fiction, almost the classical "What if..." scenario. Yet, Winters's book is ultimately a fast-moving, psychological mystery that--while never engaging with them deeply--forces the reader to contemplate some of the oldest existential questions: Does death give life meaning, or is it that which negates it? How should I live my life? Can I be saved?

    Albert Camus famously asserted that there was only one true philosophical question: Why not suicide? This is the burdensome question that all of Winters's characters must grapple with when the scientific community confirms that the planet will likely be destroyed by an imminent collision with an asteroid in six months' time. Camus's answer to the question was not for the weak-willed: the "absurdist" hero must reject suicide and embrace his existential situation, no matter how absurd it may be. For many of Winters's characters, the task proves too much, and so Hank Palace, the young detective who narrates the story, finds himself called to a series of suicides. Most of the investigations are perfunctory, bureaucratic affairs. But one of them just does not feel right: no suicide note, no cellphone, a brand new designer belt used to rig a noose....

    As the investigation unfolds it is clear that Palace is not just looking for a killer; he is also looking for meaning, purpose. The victim, who Palace tells us he likes, is almost a mirror reflection of himself: ordinary, orderly--not quite OCD, but close. He even dresses the same as the victim (both men have several suits of a single color).
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    4.0 out of 5 stars As much as I enjoyed this book
    Fast paced and well written. Keeps you guessing throughout and the backdrop of earth's impending doom creates a fabulous setting for exploring questions of meaning, ethics, and... Read more
    Published 11 hours ago by A. D. Mattson
    4.0 out of 5 stars The premise that the world as we know it will ...
    The premise that the world as we know it will end in six months was very interesting. I couldn't help but think the entire time, What would I do? Read more
    Published 4 days ago by Gail E Erickson
    3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
    After I finished reading all three books about him.
    Published 11 days ago by Agneta Jonasson
    4.0 out of 5 stars The last policeman that actually gave a crap?
    Was an all right read gave it 4 and not 3 just because the author made me laugh a few times. No 5 as didn't get the big celebration because the ending of the world meteor was going... Read more
    Published 11 days ago by Joe
    4.0 out of 5 stars a glimpse of the end of humanity, fast paced fun
    What a great book. In my house my husband is usually the one who picks up end of the world literature, but this one grabbed my attention. Read more
    Published 14 days ago by happy reader
    4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy a fantasy of the end of the world
    It was a pretty good rending for an end of the world scenario. It kept my attention. the end of the trilogy was ... really the best possible.
    Worth spending some time with.
    Published 18 days ago by Michael Wertz
    2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
    There is a good story backdrop but the characters are two dimensional and predictable.
    Published 22 days ago by Justanotherengineer
    4.0 out of 5 stars He has an interesting style and tells a good story. Am now reading...
    Ben H Winters is a new author to me. He has an interesting style and tells a good story. Am now reading book 2 of the series.
    Published 29 days ago by James T. Bowers
    5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!
    This was absolutely beautiful. A triumph of the human spirit in the face of terror and destruction. I loved every single chapter. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by The Noble Rot
    5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and poignant twist on the classic detective story
    The series The Last Policeman - 1,2 and 3 should be read all together in a tight sitting as they really are one book. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Erin Malone
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    More About the Author

    Ben H. Winters is the author of seven novels, including Countdown City, a nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award, and The Last Policeman, which won an Edgar Award, was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, and was an Best Book of 2012. His other books include Bedbugs, Android Karenina, the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the middle-grade novels The Mystery of the Everything and The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, a Bank Street Best Book of 2011 and an Edgar Award nominee. Ben is also the author of many plays and musicals for children and adults, and he has written for national and local publications including the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he teaches at Butler Univsity, and he blogs at

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    Topic From this Discussion
    So, when is the next book coming out?
    He said on his blog yesterday that he's finished the manuscript, and the book is out July 2013.
    Feb 3, 2013 by Isotonic |  See all 2 posts
    It appears this book just won the Phillip K Dick award. Be the first to reply
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