Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman isn't good; it's brilliant.

It begins when Detective Henry Palace is called in to investigate a dead man found strangled in the nearby McDonald's bathroom. Almost everything points to suicide: With the end of the world only six months away thanks to an oncoming asteroid, a lot of people are killing themselves. On the other hand, there are hints that it might be murder, and Henry is determined to investigate.

There's a wonderful layering of mysteries here. There is the central mystery: Did the man found dead kill himself, or was he murdered? Wrapped around this is another question: Why hunt down a (possible) killer when the world is going to end in six months anyway? And somewhere to the side, gradually gaining more importance, is the question of what has happened to Henry's sister's husband, whom she is determined to find.

It sounds extraordinarily depressing, which is why I didn't read it at first, but oddly, it's not. It does get dark, and there are promises of darker things to come: People are scared, some are killing themselves, some are running away to try new things, no matter who it hurts. There's also no indication that any of the attempts people are making to save themselves will work: The asteroid won't swerve, there's no sign of any adequate preparation for this kind of strike. In the middle of this, though, there is also a tale of people moving on, of them doing their jobs despite the disaster. Henry's own motives may be a mix of altruism and an attempt to keep himself sane in the middle of a crazy situation, but he's still out there, working, caring, and fighting, and so are other people whatever their mix of motives.

The plot pacing and development is impressive. Any one of the three main plotlines would be enough to keep the story going on its own. There are enough red herrings and odd angles to each of the two primary cases to keep the reader guessing, and enough tension in the interpersonal relations to make a fine end-of-the-world story. Together, they were a rich, wonderful, read. It's also the best kind of genre mix: noir wound around science fiction in the finest of blends.

Now I have to read book two, Countown City, and quickly! Then I shall wait anxiously for book 3. I love falling in love with a series.


Other Reviews
Jen's Bookshelves
Reading on a Rainy Day
Chamber Four
Rhapsody in Books

Ben H. Winters' website.
The Last Policeman on Amazon

And the book trailer:

As an entire sideline: What do you guys think of book trailers? I partly like them and I partly hate them.

I like them because, yes, they catch my attention, they're interesting. I hate them because they make me feel like watching the TV show or movie, not like reading the book. I like TV, but it's not the same as a book, not by a long shot!

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