What would you do if you knew that the world was ending in six months? Most people would likely quit their jobs and spend their remaining days relaxing or ticking off items on their bucket lists. The Last Policeman asks this question repeatedly, but the author also asks if life is worth fighting for. Do we really matter in the great scheme of things? Does death matter any more?
Most of the people in Ben Winters’ book are asking these questions. Plenty of them are killing themselves as they can’t bear to see out the final days before an Asteroid named Maia slams into Earth and begins on wiping out mankind. In the district of detective Hank Palace there are plenty of “hangers”, except the latest hanger found in a bathroom of McDonalds cries out murder to Hank. Now he has to prove that even though the time is ticking, crimes need solving.
It’s this world of questions that makes The Last Policeman not only a brilliant book but an affecting one. To us, life is sacred and death is to be examined and avoided. This is an environment where humanity has a use by date and how we react as a society. It is such an interesting premise after a recent wealth of post apocalyptic fiction. Here we see life as we know it degrading slowly. Cell phone towers are being switched off, the internet barely exists and our existence has become one of isolation. Winters paints a picture that contrasts the world we live in currently and this lends a genuine fear to the story.
Underneath all the doomsday ideas is a simple crime story. Palace is determined to solve this case that everyone else is writing off. There are new laws, guns are disappearing and their street value is rocketing as is the price of narcotics. This is a world where even a traffic violation can see you in jail, where you will see out your days. Humans still tick, especially the ones with darker sides.
The entire book has a feeling of closeness to the reader. Small town America and small town cop are surrounded by something beyond the realms of thinking. This closeness brought me into the story and I felt a part if it all. I cared about each person and their fates.
Hank is the wonderful central point that bridges this new world of anarchy and panic and our world that we live and breathe now. His morals are still intact respite the world turning to drink and drugs. He is the archetype we all love and can cheer from the sides. Reading his story triggered all the right emotions in me and he plays the part of common sense and ethics. He, along with several other members of the cast, are utterly endearing.
But, he is human after all, he still questions his own motives and those around him. Despite his determination for his job, his inner monologues debate the questions we would ask. I mean, why would we solve murders with only a short time left to live? To me, it is because we are human.
Winters has brought us a book that ticks every box. His writing is solid and constructed so that each emotion seeps through the words. His ideas and plot are exciting – this book will hold you in a tight grip. The Last Policeman is the first part of a trilogy and from the direction this opening part takes, I can see big things in the future. Winters is constantly dangling options in front of us with conspiracy theories and characters that seem to have an ulterior motive. I’m so pleased that I got on on the ground floor and I can’t wait to be taken on the rest of the journey.
This book is published by Quirk Books and was purchased and read on Kindle. I have to thank the Literary Disco podcast for pointing this book out. Without them I wouldn’t have known about it.