SciFi Mystery | Book Review: Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

Countdown City

After reading the excellent opening book of this trilogy there was no doubt in my mind that I would go through the remaining two books. The first book set an excellent plot in motion and ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger. Countdown City is a great follow up to The Last Policeman and brings us closer to the end of the world with just 77 days till impact.

Goes without saying that if you haven’t read The Last Policeman yet, this review will be full of spoilers.

At the end of The Last Policeman, we saw that Nico wasn’t really acting crazy and was planning everything that happened. Derek was an unfortunate pawn in her scheme to ‘save the world’ and Henry couldn’t be more pissed about it all. Henry also was forced into retirement as the police department was federalised; but Henry is an excellent detective and not even getting fired could stop him from taking on another case.

“Respectfully, sir, the asteroid did not make you leave her. The asteroid is not making anyone do anything. It’s just a big piece of rock floating through space. Anything anyone does remains their own decision.”Ben H. Winters

This time, a woman who used to babysit Henry and Nico, Martha Cavatone, approaches him and asks him to track down her missing husband, Brett Cavatone. Martha offers to pay Henry for his services but he politely declines and says he’s doesn’t want anything in exchange. Henry starts his investigations which lead him from Concorde to the University of New Hampshire which is now a country of its own with its own laws. With no cars or other vehicles to speak of, Henry travels around on his trust 10 speed bike along with his dog

I keep wondering why does Henry want to spend his time looking for someone he barely knew when the world is going to end in 77 days? I feel this is how Henry finds purpose in his life before the bitter end. The death of Naomi Eddes has of course had an effect on Henry, leaving him lonely. He lives with his new dog and I can’t but help feeling sorry for him and so many people around in the world in similar situations. There’s just 77 days to go before the end of everything we know and love, that’s a lot to process. There’s a deep undertone of melancholia in people and their actions that is just impossible to miss.

“Because a promise is a promise, Officer Cavatone, and civilization is just a bunch of promises, that’s all it is. A mortgage, a wedding vow, a promise to obey the law, a pledge to enforce it. And now the world is falling apart, the whole rickety world, and every broken promise is a small rock tossed at the wooden side of its tumbling form.”Ben H. Winters

If being a detective was difficult in the last book, it’s worse in this one. With no access to the resources of the police department, Henry no longer has access to phones, internet, cars etc. Now there’s no electricity either. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be to find someone without phones. Henry has his trusted 10-speed bike and a gun, that’s all. With some additional help from Trish, Culverson and McGully, he finds enough leads to start his investigations.

Nico continues her shenanigans to save the world with the crackpot scheme of the group she is a part of. During his investigation to track down Brett, Henry goes to his sister for help and she is more than happy to offer it on one condition; that Henry listen to the plan they are working towards with an open mind. Knowing Henry, that was not an easy feat. Henry and Nico have had a complicated childhood and he is very protective of Nico. Still, he does realise that Nico will do what she wants, to make sense of what is happening. Everyone has their own coping mechanism.

I’d say that the case Henry has in this book is maybe better than in the first book. Brett Cavatone is an interesting man. The glimpses of his character we get to see as Henry moves from clue to clue shows a man who is dedicated and determined. The plot leading up to the point where Henry tracks down Brett and their interactions is amazing. The turmoil and slow deterioration of society is very well detailed in this book. There’s only a few new characters in this book and Cortez is a gem amongst them. I hope there’s more of him to be seen in the next book.

“You’re like a monster, dude'”, he says, light amusement coloring his strained voice. “‘From a monster movie. The man who would not fucking quit”Ben H. Winters

While humanity did not immediately devolve into chaos and anarchy at the announcement of doom, it is now slowly and steadily occuring. As someone in the book says, “Wait till the water goes out”. I guess I’ll leave you to see what happens then.

Book three is going to be amazing!

Countdown City




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