The Last Policeman is a sci-fi murder mystery set just shy of global apocalypse–but if you’re still not sold on it, you should know it’s unlike anything you’ve ever read. It is the first in a trilogy of books, each of which will follow the prematurely-hardened Detective Hank Palace, as he continues to do his work on the Police Force regardless of the Earth’s impending doom. The aforementioned doom is set to begin at the hands of a giant comet on a crash course with our planet, and scientists have pin-pointed its arrival time, but not where it will make contact. As a result, the population has changed, for better or worse: most people have quit their jobs in search of their “bucket list” life, and suicide rates are through the roof. Anarchy is the rule of the day when there are only six months left to live, but not for Palace, who never stops sleuthing even when the cards are firmly stacked against him.Please enter the url to a YouTube video.
The Video Trailer for The Last Policeman
I say that The Last Policeman is unlike any other apocalypse type book you’ve probably read simply because it is. For one thing, we often pre-occupy ourselves with POST-apocalyptic tales, where the Event is some unpredictable, world-altering thing that everyone learns from or laments that we couldn’t have seen coming. In Policeman, we do see it coming, and we don’t have any way to stop it. In an interview with Winters, conducted by Quirk, which published the book, Winters talked about some of the more interesting aspects he had to consider when creating Detective Palace’s world—namely the element of economic change, and psychological shifts in the human race at large. His research into how our economy would change, and the variety of ways in which people were most likely to react to such an Event, definitely paid off in that these elements rang almost spookily true in Policeman. They also force readers to place themselves into the position of the characters in the book: If you knew you only had six months to live, how would YOU spend it.
Further, the psychology behind impending apocalypse allowed Palace’s story to develop organically. The people around him were constantly questioning his motives so that the reader had no need to. As he continued to dig deeper into his case, chasing what seemed to be a series of dead-ends that all pointed to his own insanity, the simultaneously strange and familiar world around him came into sharper and sharper focus. Do kids still keep going to school? Do adults continue on working? Does the government still function? Who runs the television stations? What news could there possibly be besides “We’re all gonna die”?
Interesting too were the interpersonal relationships that developed or failed to develop in the face of a ticking clock barreling its way through space. Palace reminisces on his first girlfriend, and develops feelings for a new woman, at once point thinking to himself “This is it. This is the last time I’m going to fall in love.” The romance never overwhelms the mystery or sci-fi storylines, and in fact winds up as organic elements of the main plot to the novel—something that I was pleasantly surprised by in the end. Palace also grapples with his familial relationships—specifically with his absent parents and his obnoxiously non-absent younger sister. The circumstances of his parents’ absence become a surprising twist near the end of the novel, as we realize they may have had more to do with his strong work ethic than even he is willing to let on.
The Last Policeman is definitely not the type of book I’d typically read—I like to say that I read fantasy and watch science fiction, but Policeman was so enjoyable that I’m waiting less than patiently to see what Winters has up his sleeve for Palace in the next two books. He has already announced that each book will follow another case upon which Palace places himself, but with the events that take place at the end of Policeman, which I will NOT disclose here, I will be surprised to see how he ends up on another case ever again.
I highly recommend The Last Policeman to anyone looking for a masterfully crafted murder-mystery/sci-fi apocalypse story, with details in all the right places and dynamic characters who keep you turning page after page. And if you don’t know you’re looking for that yet, you’ll find out that you were when you take my advice—read The Last Policeman.
Read more about The Last Policeman on its official page at Quirk Books.
Image and video source: Quirkbooks.com