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Review: _The Last Policeman:_ A chilling dystopia with some surprising twists

One of the books that I had been looking forward to reading this year was Ben H. Winters' The Last Policeman. While I don't care much for very many dystopias, I had heard that this was one worth looking out for. And when I spotted it on a list for my nook, I indulged myself and picked up a copy.

The year is 2012, the setting Concord, New Hampshire, and in a grimy toilet in a McDonald's, a man is found hanging in a bathroom stall. But then, there's been an awful lot of suicides lately. Which is not surprising considering that an asteroid named Maia is heading for Earth and due for impact sometime in October. Yep, it's the end of the world, and for Detective Hank Palace, it's just another suicide.

The dead man is Peter Anthony Zell, an insurance actuary. There's nothing remarkable about him, but Palace feels there's something else going on. And so he starts to unravel the story behind Zell, putting together the pieces of why would an insurance man would kill himself? The answer of course is that it's not just another suicide, but murder. How Palace puts it together is the meat of this mystery novel.

And that is all I am going to tell you about the plot. All of the clues are right there in the story, and it's obvious once you start paying attention. The other side of the coin is that the story of Hank Palace and the world around him are going to pieces quite literally. Services are getting cut off, food is starting to get scarce, and those who have the money or ability are off trying to cram as much into their final days as they can. That's the interesting part of it all -- namely, what would -you- do at the end of the world?

Everything is told from Palace's point of view, and he does make a pretty good narrator, and I found him to be a very interesting character indeed. We get snippets of his past, and his rather flaky sister, Nico. Nico has plenty of her own problems to cope with, especially a boyfriend in trouble and she wants her brother to fix it. Now. And as things get get crazy, it gets to be quite a ride.

I was very surprised by this one. I went into it thinking 'yet another end of the world' novel, and instead it turned out to be a pretty good thriller. I had tried to read another of the author's work, namely "Sense and Sensibility and Sea-Monsters," which quite frankly sucked and turned out to be unreadable. But this one, does quite well indeed.

What is interesting is that there's two more novels in the series, _Countdown City_ and _World of Trouble._ I was intrigued enough by this one to go on and look up the others and plan to read them. For those who are interested in such things, this won 2013 EdgarAward Winner for Best Paperback Original, a mystery award. Four stars overall, and recommended.

The Last Policeman
Ben H. Winters
2012; Quirk Books
ISBN 978-1-59474-577-5

Rebecca Huston asserts her rights as the sole owner of this review.

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morilla wrote on January 29, 2016, 1:21 AM

Even marginal authors who get published find an 'audience' for some of what they write. Otherwise, it would be highly unlikely they'd be published to begin with.

msiduri wrote on January 29, 2016, 8:19 AM

This sounds interesting. Not just the psychology of end of the world (been done to death) but the nice like spin this one seems to have. Thanks.