The Last Policeman has been on my list for quite a while now. What appealed to me at first about the book was the unique plot of a detective novel with apocalypse around the corner. The one perfect question the back cover asked was, “Why solve a murder when we’re all going to die anyway?”. That is an extremely powerful sentence which speaks volumes about humanity and how it would deal with an impending expiration date.
At its heart, the book is just a simple murder mystery. Detective Henry Palace gets the case of a ‘hanger’; someone who committed suicide by hanging. Though this case is weird and the victim has chosen to kill himself in the bathroom of a McDonald’s. Detective Palace is suspicious about the death and is probably the only one who thinks that the man may not have killed himself.
There’s no asteroid in the dream. In the dream, life continues. Simple life, happy and white-picket lined or otherwise. Mere life. Goes on.
When I’m dreaming of Alison Koechner, what I’m dreaming of is not dying.”Ben H. Winters
A giant ball of death, as asteroid classified as 2011GV1 or its more common name, Maia is headed towards Earth in six months. While everyone knows the date when it will impact the earth, the where of it is still a mystery. This plot really adds depth and makes this book more than just a simple ‘murder mystery’.
You see, in a world where everyone knows a large asteroid is on a definite collision course, people have more often than not chosen to end their lives. Suicides are extremely common and very little time is devoted to resolve them. People tend to disappear often, to do their ‘bucket-list’ before the world ends. When the date of impact and chances of impact were confirmed, the amount of people who got married spiked. The author has done an excellent job of creating a world full of defeat, depression and a constant feeling of hopelessness.
‘You do not yell, “Stop, motherfucker.”’
‘I do. Because you know, Palace, this is it. This is the last chance I get to run after a perp yelling, “Stop, motherfucker.”Ben H. Winters
With all this going on, Henry’s younger sister, Nico throws another spanner in the works. Her husband, Derek, has gone missing and she wants Henry to find and bring him back to her so that they may live out their last days together. Nico starts off sounding like a crazy person but she really isn’t. It’s the weird times which make people crazy. Henry really loves his sister and decides to help her as well, even though he doesn’t want to.
Solving a case is no easy feat in this pre-apocalyptic world as Detective Palace soon realizes. Most people simply don’t care that someone has died. Can he really blame them when everyone is going to die? Still, Detective Palace goes around trying to gather as many clues he can about the deceased. The characters in the book are brilliant. There’s barely a dud character in here and that is a rare quality for a book. In the course of his investigation, Detective Palace meets Sophia Littlejohn, the victim’s sister; Naomi Eddes and J.T. Toussaint, friends of the victim and many other people.
Some he connects with and feels like he wants to help out. Some he falls in love with and this is truly painful to see. Imagine knowing that you have only 6 months to live, how many chances do you get to find someone you truly love? It’s quite heartbreaking to watch some people amble around trying to live as much as possible while others just have no sense of purpose left.
This is a very good book with a plot that goes far beyond being a murder mystery. The book is definitely not without its flaws but it comes close to being excellent.