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The Last Policeman: A Novel (The Last Policeman Trilogy) Paperback – May 13, 2013
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“A genre-defying blend of crime writing and science fiction.” –Alexandra Alter, The New York Times
“Winters’s apocalyptic detective story contains an earth-shattering element of science fiction that lifts it beyond a typical procedural.”—New York Times Book Review
“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
About the Author
New York Times best-selling author Ben H. Winters won an Edgar Award for his debut mystery The Last Policeman. His YA novel The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman was also nominated for an Edgar Award. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and three children.
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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.
The basic question of the series is how would people and societies react to the knowledge that the world is going to end in less than a year. What would you do as an individual and what effects of that would ripple through society.
The author proposes several behaviors: suicide, "bucket listing,"denial, violence, religion, drugs, dissolution of marriage, abandonment of children, simply disappearing.
Our guy, a detective in a smallish city in Vermont, sticks with his profession...as much as possible.
In the first book, he doggedly pursues what he considers a murder investigation while his colleges interpret it as one of many, many recent suicides. In the second, he searches for a husband who has disappeared. In the the third, the apocalypse is imminent. He decides to search out his sister who has fallen in with a conspiracy theorist group claiming that the asteroid hurtling toward the Earth's destruction is actually some sort of government plot.
In each of these endeavours, our hero meets significant challenges, physical, psychological, and moral. His resolution of each of these brings the reader along even when the story itself fails in some regards. There are certainly sections that are not believable, especially when viewed in light of events later in the books.
I found myself reading the second book as soon as I finished the first, and the third as soon as I finished the second. And I like that the author completed the story in each book while leaving the reader (me) craving more. I personally hate getting to the end of a book and finding that I have to read the next one to find out what happens. This series does not do that.