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The Last Policeman #1

The Last Policeman

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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?

316 pages, Paperback

First published July 10, 2012

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Ben H. Winters

50 books1,872 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,658 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,515 reviews7,717 followers
September 12, 2019
Imagine Spin (my review) crossed with The Manual of Detection (my review) and a suicide investigation. As interpreted by Kant. What do I mean? Consider:

An asteroid is heading toward Earth. Fast and large, the power of its collision with Earth will cause an explosion “equaling the blast force of a thousand Hiroshimas,” and the shock waves will cause tsunamis and earthquakes worldwide. Even worse, the resulting environmental destruction will cast a cloud cover over the world, obscuring the sun for years. After prolonged speculation, scientists discover the exact doomsday will be in six months, eleven days. Suddenly, humanity has an expiration date–if not from the disasters, then from starvation. “Answer this, in your blue books, Professor Palace: what effect does it have on motive, all this information, all this unbearable imminence?” What will your partner do? Children? Neighbors? The clerks at your grocery store? The plumbers? Doctors?

“‘What about you, Dr. Fenton?’
‘Excuse me?’ She stops at the door, looks back.
‘Why haven’t you left, gone off to do whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do?’
Fenton tilts her head, looks at me like she’s not exactly sure she understands the question. ‘This is what I’ve always wanted to do.’“

A number of people quit their current lives to chase their dreams, so many in fact, that its become known as ‘going Bucket List.’ Another portion of the population commits suicide. Henry Palace has been working for the Concord Police Department as a patrolman for sixteen months when he is unexpectedly promoted to Detective. Like Fenton, he is doing what he always wanted to do; although unlike Fenton, he’s woefully unprepared. When an apparent suicide is found at the local ‘pirate’ McDonalds (the franchise has disbanded), the rest of the department is ready to dismiss it as another doomsday suicide. Palace notices something odd about the scene, and doggedly persists in investigating as a homicide, even as the rest of the department dismisses his suspicions.

Characterization is excellent. Palace is interesting character but hardly exciting; methodical, stalwart, imperturbable–and young. He prefers to play a quiet, background role: “So I haven’t mentioned [my history] to a new person in years–don’t mention it as a rule–I am not a fan of people having opinions about the whole thing–not a fan, generally, of people having opinions about me at all.” What is fascinating about the characterization is how Palace accounts for the end-of-world mentality in investigating motive and action. Winters has hit upon the myriad of responses humanity will offer at both personal and international levels. The plot is methodical, building on the investigation and the characters’ reactions. It’s not a fast-moving mystery with large-scale, implausible drama; this is small-scale, human reaction of relatively normal people under extreme circumstances.

Technically part of a trilogy, the mystery thankfully has a resolution, although questions remain in the larger arcs of the meteor and Palace’s future. The writing captures Palace’s thought process in rather straightforward, but appropriate, language. It is a nice compliment to the complicated philosophy surrounding each person’s actions. But the writing is not all doom-and-gloom and ethical conundrums. Palace has the dry humor of many police officers confronting humanity’s bizarre behavior:

“He doesn’t remember. I stare at him, standing there, still smirking. It’s such a fine line with some people, whether they’re playing dumb or being dumb.“

At the end, I wondered “was solving the mystery worth it?” I’m not sure Palace answered–nor asked–that question, although I certainly did. And I wonder what I would do with only six months. This is the kind of book that asks questions without presenting clear-cut answers. I found I was vaguely unsettled once I realized where Winters was going–or not going–but I respect an author that encourages such complicated thinking. I’m curious to where the story goes next, so I’ll be looking for the next book.

Postscript: I highly recommend reading the entire trilogy in rather rapid succession. I understand the smaller-sized books, but as a group, they make some extremely interesting statements about society, about what is valuable, and about Henry in particular. I found it a fascinating read, made more powerful by the trajectory of the world and Henry's changes. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,742 followers
September 8, 2016
(I originally rated this three stars but after completing the entire trilogy and getting a much better idea about the character of Hank Palace, I've boosted it to four.)

Three men are playing cards when someone runs up and tells them that the world is ending. The first man says, “I’m going to go pray.” The second man says, “I’m going to get drunk and sleep with six whores. The third man says, “I will finish the game.”

I learned that little parable from Young Guns 2, and I kept thinking about it while reading this. It seems like you’d want to be the kind of person who would finish the game, but what if that meant everyone else has to keep going too so that they get stuck spending their last moments playing cards? Then that guy is kind of an asshole, and that’s the way I felt about Detective Hank Palace.

A giant asteroid named Maia is going to hit the Earth in about six months, and no one will survive the initial impact or the global after effects. Law and order still prevail, but the cracks are starting to show as cell phone networks are getting spotty and the Internet is failing. One of the biggest problems is that many people have ‘gone bucket list’ and are walking away from jobs to live out their dreams.

Hank Palace benefits from this because the numerous openings in the police department of Concord New Hampshire get him moved from a patrol officer with a year’s experience to detective which is what he’s always wanted to be. Unfortunately for him, the other cops in his squad have mentally checked out and most of the police work consists of cutting down the people who have hung themselves. When Hank is working what looks like another routine case of suicide in a fast food joint's restroom, he sees some oddities that make him think it’s a homicide, but no one except him seems to care.

This is a helluva an intriguing concept. I particularly liked how the fabric of society is portrayed as starting to fray at the edges. Most people who are working are doing so only because they need money to live until Maia hits so motivation levels are pretty low. One especially clever touch is that the US government has enacted emergency laws that allows citizens to be jailed without trial for minor offenses, and this means that getting arrested is essentially a death sentence since you’ll be held in a cell until the big boom. So while there is some black market stuff going on, the criminals are terrified of getting caught, and this has kept a lid on illegal activity.

The thing that dragged this story down for me was the character of Hank. He’s an earnest rule abider and eager young detective at a point where the rules don’t matter much and nobody really wants to investigate anything. He’s determined to finish the game, and that should make him admirable. The problem is that Hank’s dream was always to be a detective which means that he is living out his personal bucket list instead of seeming noble by carrying on with his duty. It’s also his way of avoiding dealing with the impending doom, and he never sees the irony when he repeatedly says, “A man is dead.” as a justification for his insistence on pushing the investigation when no one else cares.

And I gotta say, I’m kind of on the side of the other people in this book. Hank is oblivious to the impact his investigation has on anyone else. When he demands an autopsy, the coroner coldly tells him that she’s missing her daughter’s music recital to do it and asks him if he knows how many more recitals she’ll get to see. But Hank doesn’t care. A man is dead slightly ahead of the rest of the human race, and he’s determined to find out who did it even if he wastes the precious time of other people. To me, the cost was too high.

This could have been interesting if Hank was played up as more of an obsessive jerk, and while there are a few moments like that, it still feels like the author was trying to say that Hank is the hero while everyone else is letting a little thing like the coming apocalypse turn them into a bunch of slackers

This was a great concept with an interesting angle on an end of the world story, but my dislike of the main character soured me quite a bit. I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll read the rest of the trilogy.

Also posted at Shelf Inflicted.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,895 reviews10.6k followers
May 15, 2014
When Detective Henry Palace is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, he can't shake the feeling that it's murder. But with an asteroid due to hit the Earth in six months, no one really cares and with the infrastructure crumbling, Palace has his work cut out for him...

It's taken me way too long to give Ben Winters' existential detective tale a shot. I'm kicking myself for it but the upside is the second book is already out and the third comes out in two months.

The Last Policeman could easily have been called "The Last Man Who Gives a Crap." With only six months to go, society is crumbling. When people stop doing their jobs, things go to hell in short order. With a disintegrating cell phone network, exorbitant gas prices, and extreme jail terms for most offenses, Henry Palace has his work cut out for him.

The writing is hard boiled with a taste of Herman Hesse. Palace, and most of the other cops, question what the hell he's doing trying to prove a suicide was actually a murder with only six months left on the clock. I think it's the case of one man finally getting to do what he's always wanted to do and not giving that up just because the world is going to end in half a year.

The setting were pretty well thought out. Lots of people are abandoning their jobs and going bucket list. Lots of people are committing suicide, making Palace's case a bottom priority.

The case is solveable but it's a tough nut to crack. When an insurance actuary is the victim, you know he's not living an exciting life. Palace works the case despite all the naysayers and several attempts on his life, having some meaningful moments with his sister and a friend of the victim along the way.

It's the first book in a trilogy but doesn't really feel like it. Enough seeds are sown for the two subsequent books but The Last Policeman is fairly self-contained.

It's funny. It's not often I rate a book so highly when I'm not overly fond of the main character. On one hand, I understand doing what you've always wanted to do. On the other hand, I have a feeling Henry Palace was probably a tattle-tale in grade school before graduating to hall monitor upon reaching high school. Still, I like the guy, even if he is a by-the-book tight ass.

Four out of five stars! Bring on Countdown City!
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews716 followers
July 28, 2019
So,... you're a detective in a weird world turned upside down. Because it has been announced that a gigantic asteroid will hit earth in about 6 months time....Fatal hit expected. People change, the world changes, suicide rates go up... so what's the use of doing police work anymore? Young detective Hank Palace stumbles into an apparent suicide but something is just not right. He decides to investigate.... in this weird weird world waiting to collapse. Yeah, out of the box, good story. Liked it. And there's more coming, it's a trilogy. For those who like dark crime novels with an apocalyptic twist... here's a good one!

"Even for Voltaire, the supreme rationalist, a purely rational suicide was something prodigious and slightly grotesque, like a comet or a two-headed sheep." A. Alvarez
Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews180 followers
September 22, 2019
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters is an involving police procedural set in Concord USA. Henry Palace, a newly promoted detective is called to a McDonalds outlet where a body has been found in the rest room. It’s an obvious suicide ..... or is it? Palace isn’t so sure.
All sounds quite typical of this genre except for a massive twist. We are in the very near future and the world is in panic. It’s been announced that a meteorite is heading towards earth and will collide on October 3rd - in 6 months time!
‘It’s the end of the world as we know it’ - REM
This fascinating ‘what if’ is explored by the author in some detail. The world’s collective psyche is altered. A sense of fear, hopelessness and lethargy pervades society. Hopes and expectations are curtailed, reappraised.
‘Bucket Listers’ walk out of their jobs to do the things they’ve always wanted to do before they die. Suicide is rife. The fabric of society begins to fray and breakdown.
Downbeat, edgy human dramas play out on the icy streets of Concord as people try and fail to come to terms with this new reality.
Henry Palace pushes against the flow. He’s worked hard to become a detective and he’s determined to do it well, even in these dark and bizarre times. He doggedly persues the suspicious suicide case against the general apathy of his colleagues.
The Last Policeman is an original and enjoyable read with a likeable main character and the scenario presented is certainly food for thought.
I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the trilogy plays out.
Thanks to friends Judith and Jenna for putting me onto this series .........
Profile Image for Carol.
824 reviews481 followers
July 7, 2017
Really liked this first in The Last Policeman trilogy, a steal at $1.99 July 7, 2017 on Amazon and possibly other vendors.

The publishers summary will give you all you need to know about this book. I couldn't say it better. What I can tell you is that I liked this story about a cop who maintains his moral self in the worst of times. Detective Henry Palace is a man I'd like to know and one who could make the last days of life worth living. The mystery was secondary for me. There is a sequel which I may not read as I thought the uncertainty of what might come was a fitting end.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,050 reviews1,832 followers
June 6, 2016
"I don't know." I shake my head slowly, look out the window at the parking lot, lift my cup of coffee for one final sip. "I feel like I wasn't made for these times."

"I don't know, kid," she says. "I think maybe you're the only person who was."

This book was not at ALL what I expected. Not at all. A mystery/science-fiction mashup, Winters is creating a determined police detective who still remains focused on his job even as the world is crumbling around him - a little less than a year when the asteroid will strike, ending humanity and destroying Earth.

I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't this. The main character, Detective Henry Palace is... I don't know. The word "autistic" gets thrown around too much nowadays for my liking. Let's just put it this way: he's just about the only police officer still doing his job and taking crime seriously in Concord nine months before the asteroid hits. He has the police manual memorized. MEMORIZED. He is (pretty much) unfazed by the coming apocalypse, and just keeps driving, driving at those facts and motives that will help him solve his murder case.

This is NOT the mind I expected to be in when I picked up this novel. But he really grew on me, and I learned to respect and even like him by the end of the book.

This book gets surprisingly dark.

Carmen, the book opens with a suicide (which may be a murder) and the Apocalypse is nine months away.

"Yes, thank you for that," Carmen says sarcastically.

However, that was no indication to me of how dark the novel would become. I mean, death and apocalypse can be played any which way - even for laughs! - and I didn't really know where Winters was taking me.

Even though this is a strong mystery entry - a fully-formed, clever, complete mystery which is the forefront of the novel, the murder case(s) is NOT what this novel is really about. It's about what humanity does when confronted with its demise. It's like a cleverer and more relevant version of Tom Perotta's The Leftovers. And what humanity does and how it decides to behave is (in Winters and his MC Henry's mind) abysmal. No one takes any personal responsiblity for anything. Drug use, suicide, and murder are rampant. Humanity's ugliest side is showing itself. Henry is horrified to see that all humans really care about is pleasure, and they spend the last of their time on Earth taking drugs and having sex. When Henry really wants to see them exercise and do their jobs efficiently. I'm not joking, that's really what he thinks humans should be doing in their last months on Earth.

You can see my problem with this. While normally I would of course applaud people for working hard in whatever their field is, it's difficult for me to condemn people for taking drugs or having copious amounts of sex or quitting their job to live in Tahiti when they only have months to live. Henry DOES condemn them, and that's where he loses me. I mean, I think it's admirable that he and certain other people - Dr. Fenton, the Chief Medical Examiner; and Sophia, the midwife - are still doing their jobs right up until the end. But when he questions them, it becomes clear that these people love doing their job and picked a career that really makes them happy. I'm sorry to tell you this, Henry, but not many people can say this. I feel like he's judging all these people for turning their back on thier responsibilities, when really they may see it as an early retirement or an excuse to leave a job they hate. Not everyone was "born to be a police officer" or (insert job here) like you, Henry. Or lucky enough to see that dream to fruition.

ANYWAY. If you can get over Henry being a Judgy McJudgerson, this is a great novel. Henry is actually a nuanced and well-developed character - sometimes surprising me with his compassion, sometimes alienating me with his quick determinations of people's worth, sometimes he's funny, sometime kind, sometimes cruel, sometimes stupid. He's not a very good detective, I'm sorry to say. He mostly gets his clues and leads from other people and doesn't come up with them himself. I mean, everything comes together in the end, but I didn't shut this book thinking "There's a man with a real gift for detection."

Also, he's kind of a pathetic kid straight-arrow cop-wannabe type. You get the feeling that he's always dreamed of being a detective and now he's living his dream, and it's more like him "playing cop" than actually being a seasoned detective (he's only been a detective for 3 months). This makes it all the more painful and tragic when the darkness really comes and it quickly changes from being a game for young, eager Henry into being a serious job with serious consequences.

I liked seeing this and I liked my journey with Henry, seeing him grow and change from an eager wide-eyed cop who is thrilled to be on his first murder case to someone who has actually been through some shit.

The book is great at covering all the angles, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes philosophical, sometimes just a good old-fashioned murder mystery.

A small note, Henry's six four and people act like he's a giant. I'm sorry, six four is not that tall. Get over it, people.

Some of the writing is wonderful, but the writing of the whole book isn't wonderful, it's just little gems of awesomeness dropped here and there.

Tl;dr - Definitely worth reading, for any mystery fan OR any science-fiction fan. It's not too often those genres cross, so enjoy it. :) The writing is good, the plot (and characters) are layered and complex. The book works beautifully as both a mystery novel (the mystery is good and real and complete and true) and as a science-fiction novel. So it's a win-win.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,862 reviews1,897 followers
July 12, 2021
Rating: 4* of five

12 JULY 2021 UPDATE THE TRILOGY'S BEEN OPTIONED FOR TV by Fox...Read all about it!!

The Publisher Says: 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?

My Review: I just loooooooooove it when the author, while playing fair with me, still surprises me with the solution to the crime(s). Mr. Winters has done this, and to a very satisfying T.

As apocalyptic tales go, this is one of the few that doesn't make me wrinkle my nose and schplurgle my lips in distaste. I completely buy that, facing extinction, the privileged population of the US would go all Bucket List and do all the stuff they didn't or couldn't before The End was writ large across the skies. It seems solipsistic, selfish, and inconsiderate...pure-D Murrikin behavior. But even with The End coming, gun-hoarders are seen as nutballs, just like they are now. I can believe this.

I also completely understand Henry Palace, our detective, staying on the job. He loves the job. He needs a challenge so he doesn't go nuts. He believes in a large, abstract greater good called "Justice" and he doesn't think that a little detail like the impending end of the world diminishes the need for and the right to Justice.

Gag...I'm making him sound like some kind of Eagle Scout...if it helps dispel some of that distasteful miasma, he also sleeps with a key witness. What ensues from that has to be read to be absorbed, especially in light of the killer's identity.

Off to pick up book two for some bedtime reading!
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
767 reviews1,145 followers
September 4, 2019
Earth Ending Meteorite GIF - EarthEnding Meteorite Meteor GIFs

"The date that everybody knows is October 3, six months and eleven days from today, when a 6.5-kilometer-diameter ball of carbon and silicates will collide with Earth."

If you knew that the world would be ending soon, what would you choose to do with the time humanity has left? Would you prefer to know that it was going to end or be uninformed? I can't make up my mind if I would want to know ahead of time that an earth-destroying catastrophe was going to occur or just go about my days oblivious to the impending doom, right up until the moment when it all ends. For me, who could very possibly win the award for Most-Anxiety-Produced-By-A-Human-Brain if there was such an award, it would probably be best to live out my remaining days in sweet oblivion. My brain comes up with enough crazy shit to worry about as it is; I don't need anything else to obsess over, thank you very much. So, if you happen to find out that an enormous asteroid is set to collide with our planet, wiping out all life, please do me a favour and keep it to yourself.

No one did Detective Hank Palace any favours like that. In fact, all of humanity knows that their world will soon be coming to an end. An asteroid over 6 kilometers in diameter will crash through Earth's atmosphere in just a few months, hitting the planet and incinerating everything in its path. After this one hundred teraton explosion, the climate will be so fucked up that not much can survive. Roaches, they probably would. They survive everything, don't they? They could probably eat the asteroid and thrive.

Many people decide, upon learning they have a short time left on earth, to quit their jobs and work on their bucket lists instead. Others decide to weigh their odds of getting caught, and become criminals. Our amiable protagonist Hank Palace does neither of these. Suspecting that there is more to an apparent suicide than meets the eye, he delves into a new case, even as others think there's not much reason to worry about such a thing when they'll all be dead in six short months.

I'm not the biggest fan of mysteries but enjoyed this one. It's a different concept, and makes you think of what you would do if faced with the end of life on earth. It's written well and the characters are real. There's just something about this author that I really, really like. His books draw me in. There's not a lot of action in this book, so thriller fans might not find it as good as I did, but if you like a slow, introspective mystery, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
156 reviews294 followers
February 4, 2022
HOLY MOLY! A giant asteroid is headed straight for Earth! But wait, it’s Batman to the rescue. Whew, thank heavens. Um, hold on a second . . . that’s not the Bat, it’s that other doofus.

Ugh. Sorry to build your hopes up, but, in my defense, their backstories were nearly identical. Sadly though, this yahoo’s not too concerned with saving the planet. Heck no. Not when there’s a curious MYSTERY afoot—an ugly death that appears to be staged suicide. A dead man that no one, other than our intrepid hero, gives a rat’s ass about.

Look, here comes the nimrod now in his rumpled suit and tie, he’s a 6 ft 4, gangly and socially awkward, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, rookie detective. Ooh and, check out his sweet little mustache, but darn it if it don’t itch him like the dickens.

Well, golly gee he better hop to it because, even though the end is nigh, the schlub’s over the moon to have finally caught a case. You see, being an ace detective is all he ever wanted in life, so dagnabbit you can bet your biffy he’s not gonna let some minor inconvenience like THE TOTAL ANNIHILATION OF THE HUMAN RACE get in the way of solving his silly homicide! Or was it a suicide? Ah, who gives a crap! It’s a mystery to unravel, that’s all that matters.

At a time when most folks would rather spend their last few precious days ditching work, goofing off, and getting high as satellites, detective dipstick is hot on the trail and there’s not a second to waste. No, sir! He’s got a job to do, so gosh darn you better believe he’s gonna give it his all!

And now here are a few nagging questions that I’ve just been dying to ask our intrepid hero asshole detective:

How many innocent . . . well, maybe not innocent per se, but friendly people—DANG IT HANK, you’ve gotta admit that they were some nice folks!—had to die to satisfy your curiosity? How many lives were ruined in the process? How many, Hank? In hindsight, do you think solving your little mystery was even worth it? Don’t you think, with a world-killing asteroid impact nearing the horizon, there was some better use of your time?

Yeesh! Well, I hope your piece of mind was worth such a hefty price. DICK!
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,178 reviews9,229 followers
February 18, 2018
A car is a thing that has to have wheels, an engine, seats and at least a steering wheel and a brake otherwise it isn’t a car. And you have to have fuel. Otherwise it will still be a car but it won’t go anywhere. The manufacturers change all the external details around and make us think that this car is different to that car but they’re all cars, so basically the same. I think detective thrillers are like cars. You have to have a minimum of one dead body; you have to have red herrings whereby the detective (and therefore the reader) thinks it’s that but really it’s this; you have to have the investigator get into at least one romantic thing with somebody, which in many cases marks that person out for certain death; there has to be some fisticuffs and the detective has to get biffed; you have to finally expose the villain and provide a motive for all this. The fuel, so to speak.

So I’m thinking that detective thrillers are really very repetitive, but fans of this genre don’t mind, just as I don’t mind that all Neil Young songs sound very similar. This one combines the above standard plot gubbins with a science fiction twist. A giant asteroid is on its way to Earth and will probably annihilate civilisation in around 9 months from the start of our story. It’s all a bit upsetting. Makes some people chuck in their jobs and rush off to do their bucket list things. For other people, they’re already doing their bucket list things – as the pathologist says as she dissects the corpse “this is what I want to be doing”. Our hero Detective Henry Palace is another such. He just likes detecting and getting beaten up and being misled but eventually figuring it all out.

The fun of this book is the observations of society beginning to crumble round the edges as the scientists announce the probability of Maia the Asteroid colliding with Earth - it’s 100% ! I wanted more of that but there were just glimpses.

This is not an original idea – there’s current BBC series called Hard Sun which is about how the sun will explode in 5 years - but authors seem to need to distract us from the unthinkable horror of their scenario by all this running about and falling down and shooting. But I didn’t want to be distracted.

Quite good fun though.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,822 reviews499 followers
December 20, 2021
This book would be a police procedural, but since the world is about to end when an asteroid collides with Earth in six months, newly elevated police detective Henry Palace is essentially operating as a private detective. Henry suspects that the assumed suicide of an insurance actuary was a murder. However, given the state of the world no one but Henry is feeling really inspired to investigate crimes. Henry's sister also enlists his aid in tracking down her missing husband. What you have is a crime story with something really interesting going on in the background. The author used the same formula in "Underground Airlines", which was one of my favorite books this year, so the formula seems to be working for him so far.

This is the first book of a trilogy and accordingly there are lots of loose ends at the conclusion of this book. However the murder mystery does appear to be solved. I usually find that authors stretch the story too thin when they write trilogies and that the second books, in particular, tend to be placeholders, but I'm hoping for the best with this one. This was a very entertaining book and a quick read and I will definitely read the next book.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,498 followers
September 17, 2016
A wonderful mashup of a police procedural and a story of an impending apocalypse. A comet is scheduled to destroy humanity and much else in six months. As much of society goes to hell in a handbasket with drugs, sex, or pursuit of a personal bucket-list, Harry does his part to keep civilization going as a policeman in his corner of the world, Concord, New Hampshire. A man is found dead of apparent self-strangulation in the bathroom of a McDonald’s, a common event at this time. But Harry, new in his position as detective, suspects murder from small clues, such as the lack of a suicide note and odd setting. Against the judgment of his peers and the coroner, he pursues the details of the man’s life for more evidence of either suicidal intent or enemies.

As Harry goes about his work investigating the man’s work as a claims reviewer and actuary for a life insurance company, his limited shreds of family and friends, and few vices and hobbies, the situation of the world comes into focus through this one life. It was fascinating how the usual motivations for crime—greed for money or power, lust, revenge—are still operative in this situation, even accelerated. And the risk of getting caught and imprisoned, even for a relatively minor infraction, can be a life sentence given the time remaining. For a long time we can’t tell if Harry is a fool for pursuing this case, but his lonely quest for justice had me rooting him on as a true hero and riveted by his discoveries about fellow humans exhibiting their best or their worst in the face of impending doom. So delicious to know there are a couple more episodes in this imaginative series.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,611 followers
June 22, 2014
I've been wanting to read this book for a while, especially since several of my friends have given it good reviews. The premise of a world on the brink of apocalypse and the societal breakdown because of that sounded really intriguing. So when I saw it on sale at Audible, I picked it up.

And that's about the time that this book peaked for me. *sigh* Right off the bat I realized that audio isn't the format that I should have gone with on this one. The story is told via first person limited narration, and Peter Berkrot just didn't sound like Henry Palace to me. Well, I mean, whatever Palace is supposed to sound like. If that's a 13 year old hall-monitor pretending to be a cop... Nailed it!

There are audiobook readers who can add so much to a story, who can raise mediocre writing to something better, who can bring characters to life in a way that listening is just pure ease. Good readers can differentiate between characters so that, even when no names are given in a dialogue, the listener has no problem understanding who is speaking, almost as though you're right there in the room. They can set the tone, and paint the picture, and breathe a new kind of life into the story and give the listener a completely different story experience by just using their voice. It's less like listening and more like a direct story feed to your brain.

Then there are BAD audiobook readers, ones who sound like they are learning to read as they go, or the ones who have no concept of what they are actually reading and exclaim! every! line! or just drone.on.and.on.and.on.in.monotone... until you're dragged down into a fucking boredom coma.

This book was read by a guy who falls about mid-range between these extremes. He technically got the job done, but he didn't really... fit. Some scenes would be read in an excited way, but I felt that rather than an "OMG! We're going to Disneyland!!!" excitement, it should have been a more intense "This is important and I'm making connections and can see an image taking shape," excitement. Or the way he read certain characters seemed to give away future details about their role in the story. For instance, meeting the woman who runs away from the McDonald's in the very beginning, I knew right then that she'd be sleeping with the hero at some point, just because of the way Berkrot read her. (But also because it's that predictable.) Just about every new character that was introduced felt like that, like I knew what their role would be as soon as Berkrot started reading them - and I was right nearly every time, including the whodunnit.

I just didn't like his voice or his reading style. Something about it just felt off to me. Even when the quality of his voice should have matched the descriptions given for who he was reading, something about the way he read them just made it feel fake and forced to me. But to be fair, I'm not sure how many of my issues with this book can be or should be laid on the reader's shoulders. Some, definitely. But, I don't think that I can blame the reader for the predictability I felt. These characters all reminded me of Pinnochio. They WANTED to be real characters, but they just kept being wooden marionettes anyway... Moved into position, and then they act their scene, and then that's it - back in the box until your next cue. I mean, one of the characters is named Derek Skeve. And he has dreads. And is, apparently, a loser conspiracy theorist. Come the fuck on. A dreadlocked loser named SKEVE? Are we supposed to believe these characters or is this author just fucking with us?

The only character that I was even remotely interested in was the dead guy we meet on page one. And by all accounts, an insurance actuary should by boring as fuck. Go figure that a dead insurance risk-assessor would be more interesting than any other character. But worse than wooden, boring characters, or cliche characters are completely contradictory characters who are also shitheads.

Henry Palace, I'm lookin' at you, asshole. Yeah, yeah, I know. You're the good guy. You're the Always Wanted To Be A Cop guy. You're the Follow The Rules guy. You're the Only One Who Still Does His Job guy. You're the only one who cares about Mr. Dead Man. Except... He's already dead. The worst thing to ever happen to him has already happened. He's fucking dead. He ain't getting any deader, and he sure as hell ain't coming back to life because you needed to play through your hunch to figure out how he got that way.

All the people you run over and railroad and ruin in your rookie quest for hunch vindication - excuse me, I meant 'investigation' - are still alive and have to deal with the aftermath... or were alive until they met you. Seriously, at the light end of the spectrum you're impersonating a county official and bullying a lab tech to get a blood sample analyzed... illegal AND out of character for your rule-following, statute-quoting, stick-in-the-mud rookie ass. But then we mosey on over to the WHAT THE FUCK end of the spectrum, where we see that, thanks to your efforts, lack of communication, lack of critical thinking, and lack of experience, there are now additional dead people who would have gone on about their lives had you not entered them.

Oh, but let's not forget those who managed to escape your presence still breathing. Let's see. A few come to mind:
1) A low-level pot dealer. Pot, in this society on the brink of disaster, has been decriminalized.
The use of marijuana has been decriminalized, in a so-far-unsuccessful effort to dampen demand for the harder and more societally destabilizing drugs. And the amount of marijuana I found on Victor France’s person was five grams, small enough that it could easily have been for his personal use, except that the way I discovered it was that he tried to sell it to me as I was walking home from the Somerset Diner on a Saturday afternoon. Whether to make an arrest, under those ambiguous circumstances, is at the discretion of the officer, and I have decided in France’s case not to exercise that discretion—conditionally.
I could lock Victor France up for six months on Title VI, and he knows it...
... The condition being that he be your slave... excuse me, bitch. Sorry! Informant. You bullied a guy selling 5 fucking GRAMS into doing your work for you to avoid a possession charge that was at your discretion to file in the first place. A charge that would carry a 6-month term, which, given the pending apocalypse, would be a life sentence. You're a saint, letting him work off his debt to you for not chucking his hard drug-trafficking ass into jail for the rest of the time anyone has on the planet. Very magnanimous of you. 5 grams. Man... What did he expect?? A warning? Pfft.

2) The entire Concord branch office of the insurance company the victim worked at. Yeah, they are all out of work now because of you. Several people, including one who you KNOW has nothing set aside and will be left destitute because he told you exactly that... but you don't care. This is an INVESTIGATION. You're INVESTIGATING. A guy is dead and you want to know why... no matter who's affected by your bullying ass methods to find out.
"I recognize that you have made a sacrifice. But this is a murder investigation. It’s important."
"You have no idea, young man," he says morosely, "You have no idea what’s important."
He hangs up, and I almost call him back. I swear to God, with all that’s going on, I almost get up and go over there. Because he’s not—he’s not going to make it.
Almost... But you don't do either, do you? You don't because you only care about your need to finish the job, and more importantly, to be RIGHT... I bet you even patted yourself on the back, after. No thought of the people you've hurt while you ran around half-blind (literally) wielding that flaming sword of self-righteousness called "investigation". You're the "last policeman" - you're the last one doing the job right. Well. Good job. You're doing just wonderful things for your community.

You, sir, are a fucking dick.

*deep breath*

Yeah... so, Henry Palace? Not a fan. Fuck that guy.

So that all that right there pretty much ruined this book for me, but then there's a little matter of the author not knowing how physics works.

Issue 1: If you are travelling in a vehicle and hit a tree, your body will continue to travel in the direction you were going (forward) even though the vessel carrying you (the car) has come to a sudden stop. So therefore, your head would hit either the steering wheel, or the windshield, or maybe nothing if you're wearing a seatbelt... but you'd be jerked FORWARD. Not backwards into the headrest, as described in the book.

Issue 2: One of Palace's co-workers shows him a simulation video several times which apparently indicates a change in the impending Earth-bound asteroid's course and velocity right at the last minute, with a possible connotation that it misses Earth.

Newton's 1st Law: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

So where's the external force that causes it to speed up and take a jog to the left? Asteroids don't just hit the gas and turn the wheel at random. There's got to be some sort of reason that it would do this... and if that's the case - why is there no explanation of why this was added into the simulation? Someone had to create this model, using much more intense and intricate and complicated math than I could possibly understand. They would have to calculate the velocity of the Earth and the asteroid, and the paths of both around the sun, and so on... And yet they factor in a minute change in speed and trajectory without explanation? It just seems weird to me.

I guess it's a moot point, but still. It bugs me.

So. Yeah. I had issues with this book, many of them. Perhaps if I had read this book in print form, some of the little things brought out by the audiobook reader wouldn't have bothered me as much. Maybe if I'd read this at a different time in my life I would have liked it more. But right now, I was less than impressed. I think in another author's hands, this could have been polished and spit-shined and been a great book - but as it was, I couldn't find anything that I really liked about it. That's a shame, because it really had a good premise.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,910 followers
February 9, 2017
Don't let the methodical pace or "flawed" police detective fool you. This book is something special. I've read better SF and I've read better mysteries, easily, but here's where this novel shines:

It's a delicate balance trick.

I mean, after all, what would you do if the world was going to be hit by an unsurvivable asteroid in six months, eleven days? Follow your dreams, go wild, or commit suicide? All options are commonplace, but here we get a rookie detective promoted because no one else wants the job or cares any longer, and he's not even doing it out of duty, but because he always wanted to be a detective. He's a real drag, in fact. He's keeping everyone else from having their last days be memorable by studiously trying to solve murders that no one even cares about.

And yet, being a jerk in this case would definitely have been considered a "calling" and "following your bliss" in a normal world. :)

Like I said. It's a balance trick. The tension created just between the twilight-zone society in this novel and this normal guy is quite something.

While I was reading it, I was sometimes bored, sometimes annoyed, sometimes very happy and sometimes disgruntled. It put me through all these things, and yet, in the final estimation, I can't do anything but nod my head and say, "Very Well Done."

I'm not saying the story isn't interesting or that the details weren't fascinating, because they were. I really wound up enjoying Palace's character and all the other "somewhat un-present" characters that surrounded him. It was very surreal when I was looking for it. :) I thought the whole blue-book affectation was a hoot and a half, too. :)

Was this a mystery gimmick novel? Or was this an idea-focused SF novel? That's a good question. The most interesting elements are in the details, just like in any good mystery or in a subtle SF. All in all, it's the combination and the great mixing of these two worlds that really drive this work's importance home to me.

I'm now really looking forward to reading the full trilogy, now. :)

Profile Image for Beverly.
785 reviews279 followers
April 19, 2019
'It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine, " as REM and policeman Henry Palace would say. Everyone in the world knows when a meteor is going to destroy the Earth and each person copes with it accordingly. Henry Palace has a case to solve and he's not going to let the end of the world deter him. As everyone can tell who meets him, he is a no nonsense, good guy and a born policeman.

I really liked this character and his way of dealing with the crisis is much more rational than how others deal with it, committing suicide or running away to fulfill a bucket list dream. This book gives you no easy answers, but does let Palace solve the crime and realize that he truly is a born detective. The first in a series, I have already decided I have to know what happens next.
Profile Image for Jokoloyo.
449 reviews269 followers
March 14, 2017
A buddy read with Ula and Silvana.

Good blending of mystery and pre-apocalyptic SF, and interesting enugh so maybe some of you could read in in one sit. There are clues for subsequent books, but still maintain the mystery plot for first book well. As in almost mystery-fantasy stories, the mystery aspect limited by the setting.

I found some trivia on this book related to J R R Tolkien:
1. The asteroid was called Maia. Maia is a lesser deity in Middle Earth universe.
2. There was an event in the book, called Tolkin Interview. Tolkien with less 'e' character.
3. Tolkin interview occurred on January 3. January 3 is the birthday of J R R Tolkien.
Profile Image for Toby.
829 reviews328 followers
December 11, 2013
The Last Policeman is Ben Winters' attempt to tackle the incredibly popular dystopia subgenre in a new and interesting way. A man is found hanged to death in a McDonald's bathroom, a rookie detective thinks it was murder, but nobody else cares because The Earth is about to be wiped out by an asteroid.

Taking a hardboiled character, placing him in a (loosely) science fiction setting and giving him a mystery to solve doesn't sound too innovative I know, but the aspects of a society that's having a real good go at falling apart being loosely held together by the glue of governmental threats that Winters explores throughout his copper's investigation, are what make this book that much more interesting than others.

There's more than a touch of Derek Raymond's fantastic noir novel He Died With His Eyes Open about the structure and content of this novel, as in Raymond's book Hank Palace shares The Unnamed Detective's dedication to his job and obsession with providing justice for a man so readily discarded by those left behind, Palace doing everything BUT listen to tapes of the victims voice in his empathy for the man. Even then Winters acknowledges the previous work by having his protagonist decide not to play a microcassette recording that he digs up during his investigation.

A major difference is that Palace is a rubbish detective, led around by his boyish excitement for actually performing his dream job for the first time to actually notice the clues readily available in front of him. This is important however, not just to differentiate his protagonist from the thousands of other fictional detectives out there but because it speaks of the world Winters has created for him. A world of weak and selfish people, a world of scared and depressed people, a world that's crumbling in the face of catastrophe.

This is not the apocalypse as seen by Cormac McCarthy, it's more subtle than that. Melancholia has settled over the world, gallows humour pervades everything, the overarching question presented is "what's the point in anything if we're all going to die soon, anyway?" Palace thinks he has the right answer but his investigation offers alternatives points of view and different ways in which human beings find to make life worth living. Existentialism in a detective novel? Who'd have thought it.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,003 followers
August 19, 2014
Read in one marathon sitting! It's not too often I actually do that, but the fact that I was compelled to brings this mystery up to 5 stars.

This was my post-apocalyptic book club's selection for the month. Technically, it's actually a pre-apocalyptic novel. It's been announced that in six months, an asteroid will hit the Earth. Faced with imminent demise, people are falling apart. Social structures are gradually breaking down. Everywhere, people are taking off, quitting their jobs, aiming for those "What would you do if you had six months to live?" goals.

However, what Hank Palace has always wanted is to be a police detective. He's got the rulebook memorized. He knows the legal code, chapter and verse. He dots his i's and crosses his t's. And the impending apocalypse has won him the promotion he'd (literally) dreamed of.

Suicide rates are up - way up. When a body is discovered in a dingy McDonalds' bathroom, nearly everyone is quick to dismiss it as just another suicide. Detective Palace, however, is convinced that it was murder. He's got a hunch, and he's determined to investigate.

The mystery unfolds with perfect pacing and unexpected revelations. It teases the reader, leads you to - almost - make up your mind - and then reverses back on itself with new information.

Recommended for fans of tightly-plotted mysteries, apocalyptic aficionados, and anyone that likes a well-drawn psychological drama. (That's a lot of readers!)
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews765 followers
November 16, 2017
“Aren’t we all depressed, Detective? Under the weight of all this unbearable immanence ?”

I am not familiar with the word “immanence”, when I looked it up it does not make any sense in the context it appears in. Wiser heads than mine told me it is a typo for “imminence” which makes more sense, but the word recurs several times in the book and I have to wonder if Ben H. Winters is trying to convey something profound with this word and not quite landing it? Other than that, I have little to complain about here.

The Last Policeman is a successful mashup of sci-fi and crime noir genres. A gigantic asteroid named “Maia” is hurtling toward Earth, with the date of impact calculated to be October 3 (year not mentioned). The narrative of the novel starts on March 20 and spans about three weeks. The book is not about the imminent end of the world, though, it is the setting. The main plotline is a whodunit, the murder of a man called Peter Zell. The newly minted Detective Henry Palace suspects foul play but his colleagues assume it is just another suicide in a time where suicides have become very commonplace.
“Last week in Kathmandu, a thousand pilgrims from all over southeast Asia walked into a massive pyre, monks chanting in a circle around them before marching into the blaze themselves.”

Certainly, Detective Palace has a very hard time proving that this is indeed a murder, not a suicide, in spite of appearances. He struggles to do this for the first half of the narrative until he finally manages to find some incontrovertible evidence. Meanwhile, civilization is gradually disintegrating, cell phone and internet services are becoming unreliable with intermittent disconnection. Convenient stores and fast food franchises have all gone out of business (presumably due to mass quitting by employees). The non-suicidals tend to quit their jobs and go “bucket listing” doing what they have always wanted to do before they die. In any case, with such a limited time available what is the point of murdering someone?

Image from book #3 World of Trouble.

The Last Policeman is clearly sci-fi but without the standard tropes that are immediately associated with the genre; no futuristic tech, no time traveling, and no aliens. The fairly uncommon label “speculative fiction” seems more appropriate (or the even less common “social science fiction”). This is sci-fi for people who don’t like sci-fi (as well as people who do!). The author describes this book as an “existential detective novel”, and to this end, Henry’s detection process is affected by the imminent end of the world which permeates every aspect of everyday life. Human nature being what it is, the impending end of the world does not bring out the heroic and philanthropic side of in everyone. The selfish, deceitful, covetous, and murderous are generally unlikely to see the errors of their ways. This is why the novel resonates so well with me.

The idea of the world about to be destroyed by an asteroid is nothing new, especially in the movies where Deep Impact and Armageddon were huge box office hits in the 90s. These movies tend to be “disaster porn” with spectacular climatic scenes of vast destructions as the selling point. The Last Policeman, in movie terms, is more akin to Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, it is tonally similar in that it is not about the actual end of the world but the impact the impending doom has on people (there is no special effect to speak of in this movie).

Books comparison is a little harder, I only know of Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven’s Lucifer's Hammer which is about Earth being hit by a comet rather than an asteroid, where a lot of emphasis is put on depicting the apocalyptic event (and the aftermath). Nevil Shute’s On The Beach depicts a similar situation where the end of the world is approaching and how people cope in their different ways (though the disaster is has nothing to do with Earth being struck by a celestial body). The Last Policeman holds up very well against these comparisons both in film and book forms. However, it is merely the first volume of a trilogy, followed by Countdown City and World of Trouble). While I really like this book I am a little ambivalent about reading the remaining two volumes as I feel that The Last Policeman stands quite well on its own and feels like a complete tale even though there are subplots that can be expanded upon. In any event, in and of itself this book is well worth your time.

asteroid line
• This book is not about an “extinction event” as some of humanity is expected to survive and rebuild, but the details are not explored here.

• NBC is adapting this book into a TV series.

���It's exhausting. People hiding behind the asteroid, like it’s an excuse for poor conduct, for miserable and desperate and selfish behavior, everybody ducking in its comet-tail like children in mommy’s skirts.”

“In central Europe, old folks are trading how-to DVDs: How to Weigh Your Pockets with Stones, How to Mix a Barbiturate Cocktail in the Sink. In the American”

“Some wiseacre has larded the jukebox with irony: Elvis Costello, “Waiting for the End of the World,” Tom Waits, “The Earth Died Screaming,” and of course that R.E.M. song , playing over and over and over.”

book cover
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,176 reviews1,045 followers
November 20, 2012
I did enjoy this, and I will read the sequels. The length was perfect: I was just beginning to be a bit over when it wrapped up. Going on for longer would have decreased my rating. I liked the writing, and the MC's voice.

Do I sound a little underwhelmed? It was good, but not as good as I hoped.

I think one of the disappointments for me was the depiction of a pre-apocalyptic United States. For other readers this might be more compelling.

I grew up in the 70s and early 80s. True story: when I was 11 and 12 my school uniform was green. I was relieved that when the nuclear war came over the next two years, if I survived, the colour would camouflage me for my post-apocalyptic life as a wasteland rat. To my amazement, the world made it to glasnost, and I made it to adulthood. Happily, this sparked a lifelong love of apocalyptic books and films (also prompted by the fact that I live in a city built on an active volcano field. It's a matter of when, not if, it all turnes to custard. Statistically, not in my lifetime: yay!)

So, anyway, there wasn't anything in the description of waiting for disaster that I hadn't previously considered. I didn't want spectacle, but I was hoping for a "Huh, that's an interesting aspect I had not previously thought about" moment. Should you spend less time thinking about what to loot and how to transport it (on a purely theoretical basis, of course!) you may find this part of the book more riveting.

3.5 stars rounded up.

Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 8 books6,911 followers
December 16, 2013
This book has the most intriguing premise of any that I've read in a long while. Set in the not-too-far-distant future, it features Hank Palace as a fledgling detective in Concord, New Hampshire. One night, Hank is called to the scene of a suspicious death in the restroom of a McDonald's restaurant. An insurance man named Peter Zell is lying on the floor with an expensive leather belt wrapped around his neck. The other end of the belt is tied to the handicap grip bar next to the toilet, and the officer who discovered the body has called it in as a 10-54S, that is, a suicide by hanging.

Sad to say, there's a lot of that going around these days, ever since astronomers discovered that a giant asteroid, designated 2011GV, is swinging around the sun in preparation for slamming into the earth at about a billion miles an hour six months hence.

The damned thing just came out of nowhere, one of those giant rocks that occasionally passes "near" to Earth but not close enough to be a concern. When 2011GV first appeared in distant space, all the "experts" insisted that it too would pass by harmlessly and that there was no need for concern. Turns out there was, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The friggin' planet is about to be destroyed.

As one might imagine, a lot of people are upset about this and some changes have occurred in the wake of the news. The world economy has collapsed; there's a lot of turmoil everywhere; governments have assumed emergency powers, and so forth.

Lots of people are killing themselves; a lot of others have quite their jobs and are devoting their last six months to fulfilling life-long dreams. Then there's Detective Hank Palace, who's doggedly determined to keep doing the job he always wanted for as long as he possibly can.

The truth is that, at this point in time, no one really gives a rip what happened to Peter Zell and how he wound up dead in the McDonald's restroom. But Hank does. The death looks suspicious to him and he is determined to investigate it as a murder until proven otherwise. the book details his investigation which is, as you might imagine, a little out of the norm for a police procedural, given the death sentence hanging over everyone on the planet.

It's interesting to watch Hank work, and one admires his determination. Either that, or you question his sanity. It's also intriguing to watch how the rest of Winters' cast reacts to the coming of the end of the world. Any fan of police procedurals and looming apocalyptic novels will probably enjoy this book.

Profile Image for Emma.
2,393 reviews823 followers
July 28, 2019
Absolutely brilliant! What happens to society if you know the world is going to end? Find out here!
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,863 reviews420 followers
February 19, 2017
'The Last Policeman' is a first-class mystery as well as an almost literary speculative fiction. It also is heartbreaking.

There are three books in the Detective Henry Palace 'Last Policeman' series - a trilogy. He is in the Criminal Investigations Division of the Concord (New Hampshire) Police Department. Henry's dream was to become a detective most of his life, especially after his parents died when he was a little boy. He had closely observed the process of police work, being especially interested because his mother worked for the police in a desk job behind bullet-proof glass, the department secretary. However, in having achieved what he had worked for, a promotion from a street police officer to detective, he is feeling a little, well, letdown. The new job, which he has had for three months, is a bit like a battlefield promotion, given to him because half of the police force either quit or simply stopped showing up. A disaster looms.

In six months, it is predicted half of the world's population will die because of incoming asteroid. Scientists have projected it will hit the Earth with the force of a thousand Hiroshimas, setting off earthquakes, tsunamis and a crop-destroying ash cloud. They have named the asteroid 2011GV 'Maia.' The United States military has been reorganized under a secret order, the IPSS Act, which means the armed forces now have expanded powers.

With six months to go, many people are not exactly eager to show up anymore at jobs, or if they still report in, they are not finding the motivation to work. Many jobs have been eliminated in any case because of the lack of customers or available money for wages. Lights are beginning to flicker, cellphones no longer work all of the time. However, for whatever reason, the Concord police still are getting paychecks. But employees with pensions, savings or other financial retirement plans have cashed out and left to do whatever they had always dreamed of doing. There are outbreaks of disorder and rioting, but life is still sputtering on. Many restaurants have closed, for example, but there still are open restaurants. Perhaps surprisingly, the police are responding to 911 emergency calls and the detectives are still investigating murders. They also are responding to a category of call which recently has exploded in quantity - suicides, especially by hanging.

Detective Henry Palace is rigidly doing his job and following protocols despite his co-workers' despair. He knows he has maybe six months to perform as a detective, the dream job for which he trained and worked for way longer than he will be allowed to enjoy. He is having dreams and nightmares, but he is not permitting himself to feel what he sees everyone else is feeling - a pointlessness to solving crimes. Many of the other detectives and his friends cannot understand why he keeps on investigating a death of an insurance accountant, found in a bathroom stall, hanging forward with a belt wrapped around his neck, seated on a toilet.

Palace thinks the man was murdered, partially because the belt around his neck is expensive and the man still was wearing a belt, cheaper than the one on his neck. He also appears to have been beat up. The other detectives declare it a suicide, but Palace won't accept this. He can't accept this. It is the first possible murder he has had a chance to solve, if it is a murder. Being in the job as detective for only three months, most of the previous calls have been mundane and ordinary and without a question real suicides. I think Palace needs this death to be a murder, and he absolutely needs to find the killer and bring this person to justice - even if only a justice for a few months of jail.

I think he needs to solve this case for his own dignity and the remaining dignity of humanity and its civilization.

I am choking up again.
Profile Image for jv poore.
609 reviews202 followers
October 17, 2016
I expected to be consumed by the craziness of individuals shedding all inhibitions as the end of the world rapidly approaches. More interesting, however, was the total absence of change in Detective Hank Palace. His steady plodding, consistent commitment to his work and unflappable unwillingness to be adversely affected just because an asteroid is plummeting towards the planet create a compelling story.
Profile Image for Ian.
705 reviews65 followers
April 20, 2021
I’m late to the party with this series, but like many others I was attracted to it because of the “pre-apocalypse” setting. In the novel, a 6km-diameter asteroid is going to collide with Earth in 6 months’ time, and it will be a civilisation-ending event.

Would you keep going to work if the world was going to end in 6 months’ time? In the novel many people have stopped doing so, and most of those who are still at work are just going through the motions. Detective Henry Palace is one of the honest ones, still determined to solve crime even though everyone will soon be dead anyway. Suicides are unsurprisingly common in the world of this novel, but when he is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, he begins to suspect it was a murder, and to the amazement of his colleagues pursues an investigation. As a crime story this is perfectly decent, and better than many I have read.

The premise obviously adds a different dimension to the story though. Asteroid impact stuff was all the rage about 20-25 years ago, with films like Deep Impact and Armageddon, and seemingly innumerable documentaries on TV in Britain at least. Rather than featuring heroic attempts to destroy the asteroid, this book imagines the effects on society that arise from the knowledge of impending doom. The Internet has packed up and mobile phones are going the same way, and there are shortages of everything. Although society is slowly falling apart, it’s probably holding up a bit better than I might have thought, but maybe I have too jaundiced a view of human nature. Anyway this is fiction and the author has obviously given a lot of thought to the subject. I think his book works really well.

The novel was published in 2012. Whilst I wouldn’t compare our current real-life situation to that in the book, current circumstances do resonate a bit. At one point Palace goes on a sort of date, and he and his female companion reminisce about their lives in “the strange world they used to live in.” I imagine many of us can relate to that now.

I’m interested enough to read the next book in the trilogy.
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,126 followers
March 26, 2017
The end of the world changes everything.

Okay, six months until a disaster of epic proportions hits the earth that may leave a tiny amount of survivors who will then have to live through an ice-age. In other words, you are going to die in six months. They even know the day. What would you do for your last six months alive?

It's easy to think, "oh, I would do everything I've ever wanted to do - my bucket list." And, there are plenty of people who are bucketing. But, they have to have the money to bucket it up. I know I don't have enough money saved to live the high life for the next six months. Do you? I could maybe make until... oh maybe 3 pm, before going broke.

So, our hero is Henry Palace, and he was just made police detective because there was nobody else to do it. Basically, things are going down the tubes, so he's a detective with no training, no boss, and a few colleagues who just don't give a damn anymore. He's so out of his league, it's ridiculous. And, that would be a problem if anyone cared. But, they don't. It's hard to get all worked up about solving crime when everyone is going to be dead in six months. Other than keeping the peace, avoiding angry mobs and all, what's the point?

Still, for Henry, this IS him living out his bucket list because becoming a detective is what he has wanted all of his life. So, when he comes across another suicide victim and thinks it is a murder instead, he gets to use all of those skills that he doesn't have to try and solve the case. And, it goes as expected because the guy really has nothing to go on but the things he has read in police manuals. He's a crappy detective.

But, what Henry lacks in skill, he makes up for in tenacity. He is determined to get to the bottom of this "suicide", and things get interesting.

The best part of this book is seeing all of the various ways that people are using to cope with their knowledge of their imminent deaths. There is a general underlying sense of depression and despair that colors everything going on, and yet it isn't a depressing story. Henry, as underqualified as he is, is really the best man for the job because of his sheer determination to keep on going when it would be so much easier to stop.

"I feel like I wasn't made for these times."

"I don't know, kid," she says. "I think maybe you're the only person who was."

I really liked this book. It was one of those kind that make you think. Plus, it was original and felt realistic for what would be happening in this scenario. I'm glad that there are more in the series. Too bad we can only have six months worth of stories, but at least it will go out with a bang.

Profile Image for Sarah.
604 reviews145 followers
October 15, 2017
This was a group read for SFF Book Club this month. I was pleasantly surprised. It started off a little rough- something about the writing didn't sit well with me although it seems many others enjoyed the writing so maybe it's just me.

This is a mystery plot with a twist- the world is going to be struck by a giant asteroid in about six months. Life on planet Earth is ending. It was refreshing to read a book about what happens before the apocalypse instead of after. The asteroid was also a seemingly plausible explanation for it.

We get to see how society devolves as it comes closer and closer to the end. People quit their jobs to work on their bucket lists. The economy collapses. Suicide rates spike. Crime rates spike. What little of the police force is left can't keep up with it.

In steps Detective Hank Palace to save the day (well, as much as a day can be saved when the apocalypse is coming). Palace only ever wanted to be a policeman. After 14 weeks (I think) on patrol, he's promoted to Detective. The Concord NH PD can't keep up with the number of detectives they are losing to the Bucket List. Hank is mostly called to suicide scenes. There isn't a lot for him to investigate, and new laws have declared that obvious suicides should no longer be investigated. But when Palace is called to the scene to investigate a hanger, something doesn't sit right with him, and against the wishes and directives of his colleagues and superiors, he decides to investigate.

The mystery here was average. I didn't feel like it was ground breaking or filled with twists and turns. It wasn't a bad mystery by any means, it just didn't feel like it brought anything new to the table.

I enjoyed everything else. Watching the world around Palace crumble to pieces. Seeing how Palace himself coped. Hearing the bits and pieces about the asteroid, and how the world suggested they deal with it. There is a subplot regarding Hank's sister Nico and a secret government agency that really sucked me in, and I will probably pick up the next two books in the trilogy at some point to see how that plays out.

I liked Palace as a character. He's sort of an average Joe. His head is glued on very straight. He seems like the only one not panicking about the asteroid. His attitude is: I can't do anything to stop it, I may as well just carry on with my day. He isn't equipped with anything more than his will to persist and keen instincts, and in fact sometimes even those prove to be wrong.

This was a light, easy read that I would recommend to fans of the genre.
Profile Image for Maureen.
493 reviews4,206 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-did-not-finish'
June 7, 2015
WOAH second book I've ever DNF-d and it comes within a week of each other! I guess that first book liberated me to DNF alllll da books.
I was attempting to read this for #TBRTakedown and LOOK HOW WELL THAT TURNED OUT. I probably could finish this, but I honestly have no desire to. The concept and overall story set up was so interesting, but the rest of the novel (that I read) has been a bore. The murder mystery part was slightly interesting but at this point I don't care to find out and spend my time reading this.
MAYBE ANOTHER DAY maybe not probably not.
Profile Image for Daniel.
670 reviews43 followers
November 1, 2021
Winters gets rid of that pesky mobile phone/internet problem plaguing modern mystery writers by having society collapse due to impending catastrophic meteor impact. Neat.

Slightly disappointed something more interesting wasn't done with the victim's math stuff. (He reads as autistic coded also, but that may not have been intended.)

Overall enjoyable. Probably not something I'll reread, so it only gets a 4, but I may continue the series eventually. I already own a couple of other books by the author I need to get to.
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