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The Last Policemanby Ben Winters
Synopses & Reviews
What's the point of solving murders if we're all going to die soon, anyway?
Hank Palace, a homicide detective in Concord, New Hampshire, asks this question every day.
Most people have stopped doing whatever it is they did before the asteroid 2011L47J hovered into view. Stopped selling real estate; stopped working at hospitals; stopped slinging hash or driving cabs or trading high-yield securities. A lot of folks spend their days on bended knee, praying to Jesus or Allah or whoever they think might save them. Others have gone the other way, roaming the streets, enjoying what pleasures they can before the grand finale. Government services are beginning to slip into disarray, crops are left to rot.
When it first appeared, 2011L47J was just a speck, somewhere beyond Jupiter's orbit. By mid-October it revealed itself to be seven kilometers in diameter, and on a crash course with the Earth. Now it's March, and sometime in September, 2011L47J will slam into our planet and kill half the population immediately, and most of the rest in the miserable decades that follow.
All of humanity now, every person in the world--we're like a bunch of little kids, in deep, deep trouble, just waiting till our dad gets home. So what do I do while I wait? I work.
Today, Hank Palace is working the case of Peter Zell, an insurance man who has comitted suicide. To his fellow police officers, it's just one more death-by-hanging in a city that sees a dozen of suicides every week. But Palace senses something wrong. There's something odd about the crime scene. Something off. Palace becomes convinced that it's murder. And he's the only one who cares.
What's the difference, Palace? We're all gonna die soon, anyway.
As Palace digs deeper, we are drawn into his world. We meet his sister Nico and her screwup boyfriend, Derek, who are trying to beam S.O.S messages into outer space; we meet Erik Littlejohn, a "spiritual advisor" helping his clients through these difficult times. Palace's investigation plays out under the long shadow of 2011L47J, forcing everyone in the book — and those reading it-- to confront hard questions way beyond "whodunnit." What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
"An apocalyptic premise and a knotty murder mystery collide in the first title of a planned trilogy from Edgar Award-nominee Winters (Bedbugs). Considering there's an enormous asteroid (nicknamed Maia) on course to destroy earth within six months, suicide by hanging has become the preferred way for many to bow out before the party's over. But when insurance man Peter Zell is found hung inside a McDonald's men's room stall in Concord, New Hampshire, his neck through an upmarket belt, something about the scene makes detective Hank Palace suspect murder. A young, idealistic, by-the-book cop and a no-nonsense narrator, Palace sets out to find Zell's killer and bring about justice one final time — even if it's literally the last thing he does. Winters' bleak vision of a pre-apocalyptic society is laced with malice, unrest, and indifference. The economy spirals out of control, workers ignore their jobs, and Palace's colleagues on Concord's gutted police force urge him to drop the case and stop caring so much. But Palace refuses to let the future control his present, emerging as a likeable hero of the end times. A divergent subplot involving Palace's ex-girlfriend, his sister, and her radical conspiracy-theorist husband slows down the story, though its inclusion may be featured more prominently in the sequels. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Winner of the 2013 Edgar® Award Winner for Best Paperback Original!
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?
Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.
The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.
The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
About the Author
Ben H. Winters is an Edgar Award nominee and a New York Times best-selling author. His most recent novel, Bedbugs, was hailed by Vanity Fair as a “diabolical tale of paranoia.” He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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