A looming apocalypse. An asteroid heading to Earth.
With all the kerfuffle of asteroids whipping past Earth lately, the selection of The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters seems appropriate, and poses the sticky question of what would you do with only six months to live?
A clever premise.
In the story, asteroid 2011GVI is heading like a bullet for planet Earth with 100% assurance it will impact within six months.
Against this backdrop Detective Hank Palace is called to a McDonald’s bathroom to investigate a hanging that he pronounces a murder.
Jaws drop. Heads shake.
With suicides almost every day, and hangings in particular being his small town’s specialty, no one believes the case is murder.
Yet doggedly, against a world unraveling around him, Hank is determined to prove his case and bring the person to justice. As the case develops, it becomes obvious that Detective Palace is not just searching for a killer, but trying to find meaning and purpose in a world going mad around him.
But others are fleeing their jobs to drink, paint, escape to the beach, be with family, reunite with lost friends, as suddenly priorities shift. Yet some, like Hank, continue to pursue their job, trying to hold society together.
As Hank follows various leads, the police station empties out, courts lose judges and clerks, retail stores close down, and the world prepares for collision. No one cares who the murderer is, but Hank. And what would anyone do if he or she were found?
I found the storyline interesting and Hank Palace a bit quirky. Winters won the 2013 Edgar Award for this story and the Macavity Award for best mystery novel. Also it was an Amazon best book of 2012.
Having said that, the story focused more on the mystery of whether it was a murder and if so, who did it? Winter writes using excruciating detail at times to describe a scene while the main character remains a mystery. All we know of Hank Palace’s physical description is that he is young and has a mustache. Also, he wears several suits of the same color. Psychologically, this case is his umbrella against a rain of emotion that destroys many others who commit suicide so they won’t have to face “the final days.”
For me the book was interesting enough to mention, but not one that I would put to the top of my “must read list.”
This is the first book in a trilogy, and although the mystery resolves to a certain point, the asteroid continues to plunge closer in, evidently waiting for the next two novels before it can hit. This puts an unresolved tension on the whole story. If the case had proven more interesting, maybe…but enough other readers liked it that I wanted to mention it. It is also a Powell’s book group selection and should raise a fair number of comments and discussion.
For those of you interested in the business of books and publishing, I wanted to suggest the following links:
Mark Coker puts out a forecast every year for the book business that is worth reading. Here is a link: He lists fifteen changes or developments that will happen in publishing in 2015.
And for my Indie author readers, M.L. Banner, author of Stone Age, offers a podcast with unique ideas on how to reach the bestsellers list on Amazon with your first novel.
Last night my writers group was awesome, so I’m up and writing more in the next installment. My next book poses the questions, “What if time travelers from the future came to your present and tried to change things? How would you react?”
I’m finding it an interesting story.