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The Last Policeman: Great Mystery in an Unique Setting

  • Sep 23, 2012
The Last Policeman is a terrific novel with a unique plot.  An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and will destroy the planet in six months.  There are no grand scientific geniuses with a way to stop it.  The Earth, and everyone on the planet, has six months of existence left.

What would such a world look like? 

In this novel detective Hank Palace is investigating a murder that everyone thinks is just a suicide.  In world doomed in six months suicide are common.  But something nags at the back of Palace’s mind that it’s not a suicide, but a murder set up to look like one.  The district attorney and his own colleagues on the police force want him to just drop the investigation.  But he is dogged in his attempt to find out the truth, with little help from anyone.  But he is one of the few remaining people who seem to care about doing what is right in a world gone very wrong.

As the story unfolds Hank gets closer and closer to the truth despite the roadblocks in his way.

Palace is an interesting character on many levels.  Firs, he is a young and very junior having just been promoted to detective way before he is ready because of the number of police who have simply walked off the job.  He is very naïve and not yet entirely competent.  But he is dogged and conscientious about doing his job and doing the right thing.  It is his dream job.  The oddity of Palace is while he is not oblivious to the impending demise of the Earth, he seems a step removed emotionally from it. 

This was the first of trilogy and it will be quite interesting to see how Palace’s character develops as the asteroid gets ever closer.
The Last Policeman: Great Mystery in an Unique Setting

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Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: It’s not often you hear a book described as a pre-apocalyptic police procedural. But in the hands of Ben Winters (Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters), the mash-up of murder mystery and gloomy end-of-world melodrama works perfectly. Detective Hank Palace knows the world will likely be destroyed in six months by the meteor headed toward earth like a bullet. But unlike those who are giving up, quitting jobs, doing drugs, running away, or killing themselves, Palace has a job to do. He’s got a murder to solve. So he keeps plugging away, unwilling to let the looming apocalypse distract him from finding the killer. Palace is an appealingly off-kilter character, more goofball than hard-boiled. So it’s a very good thing that this is the first in a planned trilogy. --Neal Thompson

Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman is set in a world in which a massive asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, but the novel centers on one detective's murder investigation. Where did you get the idea to combine these two disparate elements of storytelling?

Well, you know, story ideas are like giant planet-dooming asteroids: they always take you by surprise. But I've always had a soft spot for certain kinds of science fiction, books that imagine one grand change to the human situation and tease it out. P. D. James's Children of Men is a marvelous example, or Philip José Farmer's Riverworld ...

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Fiction, Mystery, Novel, Ben Winters


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