The Last Policeman Review
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The Mayan calendar comes to an end in December of 2012, leaving many to wonder if this is it—if this is our last year on Earth. The speculation has inspired all kinds of Apocalyptic fantasies—movies like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and novels like author Ben H. Winters’s pre-Apocalyptic mystery, The Last Policeman—the story of a young man who’s just trying to do his job, even after others have all but given up.

Under normal circumstances, Detective Henry Palace would have paid his dues on the police force and worked his way up to detective—but these aren’t normal circumstances. A massive asteroid known as Maia is making its way toward Earth, and it’s scheduled to hit in just six months, prompting some to suicide and others to tackle their bucket lists. With the police force dwindling, young Henry is now a detective.

Of course, there’s not much to investigate in Concord, New Hampshire—just a whole lot of suicides by hanging (the city’s method of choice). But when Henry is called to investigate the hanging of insurance man Peter Zell, something just seems wrong. So, despite his colleagues’ ridicule, the determined young detective sets out to prove that Zell was murdered.

Like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Last Policeman poses a thought-provoking scenario: if you knew that the world was about to end, what would you do? For many of the characters here, life goes on—in a way. With six months left, they try to do their jobs and make a living, despite the serious depression going on around them. And while many give in to hopelessness and despair, others try to make the most of their last days. But few take their jobs quite as seriously as Henry Palace.

While many of his colleagues have either left town or mentally checked out, Henry is determined to be the best detective he can be in the time he has left—and that makes him an extremely likeable hero. He’s young and inexperienced, but he’s still dedicated to his job—and to getting justice for a man who (he’s convinced) didn’t want to die quite yet.

The mystery that Henry sets out to solve, then, is full of questions and layers and possibilities. It could be a murder—as Henry suspects—but it could just be a suicide, too. The more Henry digs, the more you’ll want to know about this strange man, Peter Zell, and his last months. And there’s definitely enough going on here to keep readers guessing—and turning the pages.

At the same time, there’s even more going on in the background, related to Henry’s younger sister, Nico, and her missing husband, who seems to have been hunting for information regarding a conspiracy theory about a secret government contingency plan. It’s a storyline that’s sure to carry on throughout the rest of Winters’s planned trilogy—and where it’ll lead is anybody’s guess.

For Detective Henry Palace, meanwhile, it’s the end of the world as he knows it. And, if this first book is any indication, he’s sure to go out in style.

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