“It’s such a fine line with people, whether they’re playing dumb or being dumb.” ― Ben H. Winters, The Last Policeman
The Last Policeman is the first book I have had the privilege of being accepted to read and review through the NetGalley website – a place where authors can have their works read and reviewed by bloggers, critics and libraries ahead of release. It’s a fantastic concept as I have found a small list of books that I hope will grow, that I can look forward to trying. It means I get to discover new authors and try something I might not otherwise when perusing the shelves of my local bookshop, or Amazon. And for my first read from this website, I was presented with a story by Ben H. Winters, called The Last Policeman.
The blurb text really caught my eye. The concept intrigued me. This is a story that mixes two well-trodden genres into one book: apocalyptic events and crime mystery. The story follows a rookie detective, Henry “Hank” Palace, in a world staring down the barrel of a disaster on a cataclysmic and global scale. With an enormous asteroid heading towards Earth, and the chances of it actually hitting climbing inexorably towards the 100% mark, society is slowly collapsing. Some people have gone off to complete their bucket lists now that scientists have a date for the impact. Others have opted to end things on their own terms, with many preferring self-hanging.
When Detective Palace gets a call to attend a “hanger” at a local fast food joint, something doesn’t ring right about the scene. In his albeit limited experience, this doesn’t look like the other suicides. But when the world around you is set to give up and see out your days, as a police detective, what do you do? Forget about it and just chalk it up as another hanger? Or pursue those niggling concerns, pull the thread until you reach the end and find the answers? Being young and eager, Detective Palace cannot let this one lie, impending apocalypse or otherwise.
The story the Winters weaves throughout The Last Policeman is an interesting one. While many thrillers use and overuse action and suspense to keep the pace moving. In this case, it pays more attention to the process; moving from clue to clue, lead to lead. There are a few moments here and there of tension and action, but that isn’t the key here. The entire story is told in the first person by Detective Palace, which I really liked about this book. Far too often a story becomes overly complicated with the number of characters they try to follow, and the continual jumping around to try and tell all their stories.
With The Last Policeman I felt we got to know the other supporting cast and their backstories without flitting back and forth. The natural course of the investigation throughout led each character developing as things move on. All in all a fantastic read, well-written, and entertaining. My only criticism would have been that it stopped almost abruptly at the end of the case, not tying up the impending apocalypse that occurred. That was until I discovered that Ben Winters has written a follow up, which I look forward to reading.