Complimentary copy attained at Quirk Book’s stand at Book Expo America
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?
There is an impending sense of doom and gloom, attributed to some meteor that is bound to collide into the Earth in under six months. Reassuringly, this is an apocalyptic event that is occurring only in the Last Policeman; a cerebral amalgamation of police procedural and a rather dangerous dose of apocalyptic intrigue. While reading the book, I kept wondering to myself: How are police officers relevant anymore within a world that is on the brink of apocalypse? Why does our government within this fictional story still futilely try to police our country, uphold some fatalistic belief in any kind of constitutional rule?
Without becoming too didactic with speculation into these complicated questions, Ben Winters subtly asks these questions whilst focusing on a weird crime surrounding a suicide that might not really be a suicide. Essentially, everything within the Last Policeman has become wonky and off-kilter all due to the apocalypse. Part of the cleverness of this novel is that while apocalypse is on the horizon, there is still ample mental space for people to involve themselves in human crimes that seem inane in comparison with discussions surrounding the incoming comet.
At first, I thought the the sheer magnitude of the story’s cleverness might have consequently made some of the characters less developed. In actuality, the characters are just as unpredictably weird and eccentric as a story that successfully reads like a crime novel with the added element of Apocalypse Now-esque danger.
While you are sitting along the deceptively calm waters at any beach this summer, I highly recommend that you read this well-written, unorthodox novel in the beach chair. You are forewarned that it may cause your vacation to appear very unexciting, especially when compared with this very fun, yet wonderfully odd police procedural that might spoil your disbelief in any conception of the apocalypse! If anything, this book provocatively asks the age-old, existentialist question of “What is our purpose beneath all the pedantic details of normal life?”