Book Review: "The Last Policeman" by Ben H. Winters


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.

Ben Winters' novel was recommended to me at a writing seminar, and I couldn't be more appreciative for it. There's nothing better than your expectation being exceeded by an author you've never read before. My excitement for this review also stems from the fact that Winter's novel is the first crime and science fiction I've had the pleasure of encountering.

I'll start with my two favorite aspects of this story: the tone and Detective Palace himself. Winters' world building is tailored around the oncoming calamity which portrays an effective picture the world gradually shutting down as the planet's last day comes closer. The grim backdrop of this story also produces excellent moments of dialogue, cracks in facades built by every character Palace meets, the list goes on. Every emotional break in this story is rightly earned and thoroughly felt, not to mention looked forward to as the crime is explored.

Detective Palace is an absolute treasure. The detective is intrepid, eager and sees his promotion as the golden opportunity to make a difference...in a world that's facing its final six months. The concept of this character works because of the premise. Palace is an eager do-gooder in the wrong world, quickly discovering due process is hard to pursue when his fellow law enforcement have mentally checked out. Though Palace begins as the typical do-gooder, Winters does a phenomenal job of evolving his protagonist along the way.

When I picked up my copy of The Last Policeman, I had no idea this was the first book in a series. I definitely look forward to where Palace's adventure will take him--in the next six months--but also love how easily this novel can be considered a stand-alone. Whether you're up for an exciting pre-apocalyptic trilogy or just want a taste of a fascinating concept of the world ending, this is a book worth your time.

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