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The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben Winters

The Last Policeman: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Ben Winters

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7409612,599 (3.86)122
Title:The Last Policeman: A Novel
Authors:Ben Winters
Info:Quirk Books (2012), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:home, fiction, science-fiction, mystery, read, read20121214

Work details

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

  1. 20
    Countdown City by Ben H. Winters (sturlington)
    sturlington: Countdown City is the sequel to the Last Policeman
  2. 10
    The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen (JanesList)
    JanesList: I can't explain quite why, but these two detectives remind me of each other.

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Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Hank Palace, a police detective in Concord, New Hampshire, is investigating the death of a man who was found hanged in a McDonald's bathroom. His fellow police officers are certain it's a suicide, and with good reason: an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, and collision is both certain and imminent. As a result, suicides are on the rise, along with a variety of other behaviors. Some people are "bucket listers," quitting their jobs to chase their lifelong dreams while they still can. Some people turn to religion, others to drugs. In these circumstances, one more dead man -- especially one who appears to have hanged himself -- doesn't matter very much to the police. But Hank suspects that there's something wrong about this suicide, and he's determined to discover what really happened. He uncovers several more mysteries in his investigation, including a hidden cache of drugs and a beautiful woman who knows more than she's saying. But the biggest obstacle of all is the widespread indifference to his quest. If the end of the world is imminent, does one potential murder even matter?

This novel is an interesting combination of two popular genres, the police procedural and the apocalyptic novel, and I think it's a fairly successful one. Hank Palace is a dry, unintentionally funny narrator who manages to retain some of his ideals despite the cynicism of his surroundings. Even though he knows that life is about to change forever (assuming life will continue at all after the asteroid hits), he remains devoted to his job. But the world of this novel is even more interesting than its narrator. I think the various reactions of people in the book to the impending catastrophe are very plausible. And the details Hank lets slip about the new role of government are as realistic as they are chilling. In this world, every crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment. There is no habeas corpus, so anyone suspected of lawbreaking is condemned without trial. The US Constitution is still the law of the land, but it's impossible to enforce -- and most government officials and police officers don't really care. Overall, I was fascinated by the setting of this novel and will eventually continue with the series to see what hapepns.
  christina_reads | Dec 10, 2014 |
Ben Winters poses a thought-provoking question: If you know the world is about to end, does justice still matter? In six-months, the asteroid Maia will strike the Earth and humanity's time will be over. Suicide has become epidemic. However, rookie detective Hank Palace is sure the man he has found hanging in a public washroom isn't actually a suicide but a murder. Despite the approaching apocalypse, and despite his apathetic superiors and coworkers, Hank is determined to get justice. In a world that has given up and is spinning out of control, Hank refuses to let the future, or the past, control his present. This trilogy continues with Countdown City.
  ktoonen | Dec 10, 2014 |
A pre-apocalyptic murder mystery? There's an unusual premise for you. There's a huge asteroid destined to bang into the earth in a few months, and so many despairing people have been hanging themselves in Concord, N.H. that some call it "hanger town". Newly minted Detective Hank Palace of the Concord police department (because so many have left to do their bucket list, or whatever), finds the latest hanging death of a boring insurance functionary suspicious. It has none of the earmarks of the usual suicides, and the deed has been done with an expensive belt that doesn't fit the man's dull wardrobe.

Who cares, we're all going to die anyway? Palace cares. A skeptical colleague says, “We’ll call it an attempted murder. It’s a suicide, but you’re attempting to make it a murder.” Palace has always wanted to be a detective, and he's going to do his job the right way. We pull for Palace as he follows hunches and tracks down clues, as some around him are listless and have to be kicked into gear, while others grudgingly respect his resolve in the face of impending disaster.

This is the first in a trilogy, and Winters does a creditable job of portraying individuals idiosyncratically facing unavoidable extinction. At one point Palace says to a diner waitress he admires, “I feel like I wasn’t made for these times.”

“I don’t know, kid,” the waitress responds. “I think maybe you’re the only person who was.”

Four stars. ( )
  jnwelch | Sep 25, 2014 |
Winters sets his world down in bold, bleak, unforgettable strokes: gasoline is rare, suicide is rampant, and yet people still go about the business of living. The mystery is tight, the atmosphere is gloom and doom, and the writing is pitch-perfect. Damn great book, and I’m tracking down the other books in the trilogy now. I gotta know how this ends! HBO, get on adapting this now. I’m seeing a set of three movies, and then you’re done!

Read the full review here. ( )
  ShelfMonkey | Sep 4, 2014 |
What an opening. I stumbled on this book on a table at Bookshop Santa Cruz, scanned the jacket copy and thought it might be up my alley.
Was it ever.
The premise, of course, is fantastic: the world's fate is decided, stuff is about to get really, really bad, most of us won't make it. What do you do? Do you go bucket list and check off those last few things you always wanted to do? Or do you preempt the asteroid that's about to hit the planet and end it early?
New Detective Hank Palace is our guide through these end times. While the world crumbles around him he keeps digging at a scab of a death that he can't let himself think is a simple suicide, like the many plaguing the city of Concord, New Hampshire, and the rest of the world.
The writing is pretty sharp, the characters really well drawn, and the premise, of course, well, I've already mentioned that. The actual detective work is, well... perhaps it's intentional, making Detective Hank Palace seemingly oblivious to certain clues, but it was pretty easy for even me to guess what might be at the core of Peter Zell's suspicious death in the bathroom of a McDonalds, and I'm not usually one to hazard a guess in murder mysteries. So if you're looking for a mystery you can sink your teeth into and be surprised, in the great reckoning, well, maybe this book isn't it.
I spent a vacation ranting and raving about this book to friends and family (of which I have none left, because they all either got sick of me raving about the book at them or they went off to pick up a copy) -- and I hadn't even gotten to Countdown City, the next in the trilogy... I just really enjoyed this book and loved the idea of the arc of the remaining two books, as the asteroid slouched inevitably round to Bethlehem (and the rest of the world). ( )
  mhanlon | Aug 14, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Winters, Ben H.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horner, DoogieDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McGurk, John J.Production managersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pushnik, JonathanCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Even for Voltaire, the supreme rationalist, a purely rational suicide was something prodigious and slightly grotesque, like a comet or a two-headed sheep." -- A. Alvarez, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide
"And there's a slow, slow train comin', up around the bend." -- Bob Dylan, "Slow Train"
To Andrew Winters, of the Concord Winters
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I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't.
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Book description
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die? Detective Hank Palace has asked this question ever since asteroid 2011L47J hovered into view. Several kilometers wide, it’s on a collision course with planet Earth, with just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. Industry is grinding to a halt. Most people have abandoned their jobs. But not Hank Palace. As our story opens, he’s investigating the latest suicide in a city that’s full of suicides—only this one feels wrong. This one feels like homicide. And Palace is the only one who cares. What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die?

The Last Policeman offers a story we’ve never read before: A police procedural set on the brink of an apocalypse. What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
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When the Earth is doomed by an imminent and unavoidable asteroid collision, New Hampshire homicide detective Hank Palace considers the worth of his job in a world destined to end in six months and investigates a suspicious suicide that nobody else cares about.… (more)

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