Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book Review: "The Last Policeman" by Ben H. Winters

If you knew the world would end in six months, what would you do? Would you abandon your job and your life to pursue something you've always dreamed of? Would you find that one special person and let them know what they mean to you? Or would you take your own life before circumstances went beyond your control?

In Ben Winters' fantastic new book, the Maia asteroid (aka 2011GV1) is expected to hit Earth within six months, and many people all over the world are moved to do at least one of those three activities. But Concord Police Detective Hank Palace isn't one to let down his guard, and when he is assigned the investigation into the alleged suicide of insurance adjuster Peter Zell, his colleagues and even Zell's own friends and family encourage him just to close the case. After all, who wouldn't commit suicide facing near-certain extinction, and what's the point of solving crimes if the world is going to end anyway?

But Palace has always wanted to be a police detective, and he feels he owes it to Zell to fully investigate this case, even when all signs point toward suicide. Yet he always has a niggling feeling something just isn't right, and the more than Hank pursues his suspicions, the more reality he is forced to confront, coupled with the violence and confusion that accompanies a pre-apocalyptic society. And this throws him more than he wants to admit.

This book surprised and delighted me. I love mysteries and thrillers, and The Last Policeman—the first in a trilogy—brings heart and soul and a simultaneously idealistic and jaded protagonist to the genre. I really enjoyed this book as much because of the questions it raised as I did for the actual mystery and action it provided. I am enamored by Winters' use of language and the way he gave each character a distinct voice, and I hope that Hank Palace will continue to play a prominent role in the remaining books in the trilogy.

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