Countdown City (The Last Policeman, Book II) Review
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The apocalypse is pretty hot right now. Movie theaters are filled with disaster movies and post-apocalyptic thrillers. But none of those big-budget adventures are quite as gripping (or as thoughtful) as the ongoing saga of Detective Henry Palace in Countdown City, the second book in the Last Policeman trilogy by author Ben H. Winters.

Earth’s days are numbered. On October third, an asteroid known as Maia will come crashing into the planet, destroying all of life as we know it. As the world’s doomed citizens plan for the end of days in their own ways—some praying, some partying—Henry just wants to go about his business. Since the DOJ took over the nation’s police departments, the former Concord, New Hampshire, detective is out of work—but that doesn’t mean that he can’t still solve cases on his own time.

Henry’s latest case involves the disappearance of Brett Cavatone. Brett’s wife, Martha, just wants him to come back home—and she’s convinced that Henry can find him. So, with society completely crumbling around him, Henry hops on his bike and sets out to crack his latest case.

Like The Last Policeman before it, Countdown City is an intriguing mystery, set against a fascinating backdrop. This isn’t a post-apocalyptic thriller, and it’s not the story of sudden, Earth-shattering disaster. Instead, it’s a thought-provoking look at a long, drawn-out, apocalypse-in-progress. As he investigates, Henry encounters all kinds of people who are preparing for the end of the world in a variety ways: those who set out to enjoy their final days, those who make a killing on the black market, those who create their own utopian societies, and those who, like Henry, are just trying to live some kind of normal lives. More than just a mystery, then, Countdown City is also a kind of exploration of the human psyche—a look at the various ways that people react to the coming doom.

As Henry continues to look into Brett’s disappearance, the question that keeps popping up, however, is why? Why does Henry keep taking on cases when he’s no longer a cop? He’s not getting paid—and the world is about to end anyway—so what’s the point? Most of the time, Henry himself doesn’t even know. But his decision to carry on says a lot about his character—and it makes him the kind of guy that you’ll happily follow to the end of the world.

At the same time, though, Winters offers another perspective on the coming apocalypse through the eyes of Henry’s younger sister, Nico, who’s holed up somewhere with a group of conspiracy theorists who may know more than Henry initially believes. Nico’s storyline adds a little more mystery and intrigue to the trilogy—and after reading the first two books, you’ll be eager to see how it all plays out in the third and final installment. You’ll be left wondering whether Nico and her friends will be able to stop the coming disaster—or if the world will end as scheduled.

With its fascinating cast of characters and its suspenseful setting, Countdown City makes for a gripping read. If you haven’t already picked up this apocalyptic series, check it out now—before it’s too late.

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