Book Review: The Last Policeman (Last Policeman #1) by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3 stars)

When the end of the world is imminent and more than half of humanity will surely not survive the impact (and they may well be luckier than those who get to die slowly in a dark, frozen hellscape), does investigating a murder matter at all? That's the question posed in The Last Policeman and for newly minted Detective Hank Palace, the answer is a resolute, yes.

Peter Zell worked at an insurance company before he's found hanging by a belt in a McDonald's. There are some inconsistencies with suicide and Palace is going to chase down the answers. For every answer given to the puzzle the odds shift back and forth on whether Zell was murdered or suicided. I didn't mind the turns but I did mind that Palace didn't suspect or think about some things that stood out as clear to me. He kind of stumbled into answers or others offered them to him. Things that seemed obvious in the reading were completely obscure to him. For me, as Palace is narrating this story, this made him a bit less compelling.

I felt the backdrop of the world on the brink of collapse because of the impending asteroid collision was well done. Palace is our only look in so it's more passing mentions than in depth but it's clear that it's a bleak existence for most and the government has taken some interesting liberties in what are to be humanity's final months. I want to continue the series just to see what else happens with society. The rest of the characters ultimately didn't do much more than either propel the story or simply grate on my nerves (Nico, Derek & Miss First Name I Can't Remember Eddes). But the Coffee Doctor and the dog can show up in book two and I wouldn't mind a bit.

This was more middling than magnificent as apocalyptic fiction goes for my taste but still worth a read.

Summary: What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?
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?

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