- Series: The Last Policeman Trilogy (Book 1)
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Quirk Books; UNABRIDGED VERSION edition (May 13, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594746745
- ISBN-13: 978-1594746741
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (825 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Last Policeman: A Novel (The Last Policeman Trilogy) Paperback – May 13, 2013
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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.
“A genre-defying blend of crime writing and science fiction.” –Alexandra Alter, The New York Times
“The Last Policeman books offer an appealing hybrid of the best of science fiction and crime fiction.”—The Washington Post
“In his acclaimed Last Policeman trilogy, Masters showed off his mastery of edgy, sardonic wit — there’s nothing like an asteroid speeding toward Earth to bring out the black humor in people.”—Newsday
“Sharp, funny, and deeply wise.”—Slate.com
“I’m in the middle of it and can’t put the dang thing down.”—USA Today’s Pop Candy
“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.com
“In his Last Policeman trilogy, for which he won both the Edgar Award and the Philip K. Dick Award, Winters took a standard science fiction trope — the final months before an asteroid slams into Earth — and mixed it with some of the conventions of the detective novel, imbuing his apocalyptic scenario with an extra measure of urgency and poignancy.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“Winters’s writing is funny, surprisingly tender, and thoroughly human.”—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
“Winters constructs a sturdy, functional, entertaining page-turner.”—Greg Cook, WBUR.org
“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
“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
“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
“Full of compelling twists, likable characters, and a sad beauty, The Last Policeman is a gem.”—San Francisco Book Review
“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
“This is a book that asks big questions about civilization, community, desperation and hope.”—io9.com
“An entertaining and well-plotted tale.”—Wired.com’s GeekDad
“The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States.”—Tor.com
“A heck of a lot of fun.”—Locus
“Resonant and powerful.”—Locus
“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.”—New York Journal of Books
“If the next two books are as good as this one, I can’t wait for the end of the world.”—Asbury Park Press
“Winter’s novel is a solid noir detective tale, set in a pre-apocalyptic world where the coming destruction is an unavoidable aspect of life.”—Colchester Sun
“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
“A fascinating character study…. This novel combines the best of detective investigation with philosophical debate and science fiction.” —My Edmonds News
“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
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
Because suicides by hanging are a common occurrence these days, occasioned by the date certain--October 9--that a large asteroid will strike the earth. Why bother with a possible murder when there are less than six months left? Why care about the dead man, and what led to his demise when the looming demise of everyone is a guarantee?
I thought Detective Henry Palace's often insightful and frequently bumbling efforts to solve this case, and the interesting fallout from it, are what sets this story apart from other "police procedurals." The supporting cast of almost-impossible-to-categorize folks is stocked with fully realized individuals, all of them metaphorically--or really--glancing at the sky perhaps without realizing it. The tension is there, whether in Palace's determination to find a killer or in how everyone in a grim and depleted Concord, NH is managing to cope with the extinction level event. The writing is clear, competent, and unobtrusive, letting the story unwind naturally without any of the usual literary stumbling blocks.
And just so you know, this is the first in a trilogy. I usually flee screaming from any series--other than Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter--but when I finished this book last night, I downloaded the remaining volumes. I adore ginormous natural disasters, and can't wait to see how this one plays out.
The novel opens six months before the end of the world as the protagonist, Hank Palace, is investigating a murder. The cause of our planet’s demise will be an asteroid over six kilometers wide rushing towards the Earth. Originally the odds of it touching our planet were so small as to be almost a statistical nullity, but as time passed and the asteroid came closer and revealed it unusually long elliptical orbit, the likelihood of impact eventually become a certainty. As a result, the economy plummets, with many large corporations going bankrupt, and the government imposes a form of martial law. Despite persistent rumors, there is no hope for sending a small portion of humanity towards the stars or going underground into protected bunkers. Many people begin to engage in random acts of hedonism or commit suicide. For most individuals, however, they go about their lives with the asteroid being little more than a subject of grim humor and workplace betting pools as to its landing point.
The book opens with Detective Palace in the bathroom of a McDonald’s, investigating the apparent suicide of a man named Peter Zell. Zell’s body is found hanging from an expensive belt, which strikes Palace as odd given Zell’s mundane taste in clothing and that Zell was already wearing another one. Palace digs further, questioning Zell’s closest associates and slowly discovers Zell was a man obsessed with the numbers relating to the asteroid’s impact. At the same time, Palace must deal with the trouble his only surviving relative, his sister, presents him when her husband is arrested for attempting to perform a “terrorist” act (riding an ATV) on federal property. He also begins to establish a relationship with one of the witnesses in the case. Without giving away who the murderer ultimately is, it is a surprising figure who appears early in the novel.
This book performs an impressive task of taking an old concept and making it seem original. With six months until the end of the world, it seems somewhat futile to pursue a criminal investigation when that is longest possible penalty. Nonetheless, most people perform their jobs well and carry on with dignity. I suppose that is because death is something every person knows lies in their future; in this case, those futures just happen to coincide in time. On the whole, this was a great book that tackles a complex scientific subject and makes its premise seem possible, without overwhelming the reader’s understanding. While I have not yet read the second and third volumes of this series, I anticipate reading them soon. It will be interesting to see how Winters handles the ever closer approach of the end and peoples’ reactions. Here’s hoping the sky doesn’t fall in the meantime.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This man can both write and weave a story.Read more