Book Reviews: The Last Policeman and Countdown City, by Ben Winters

Ben Winters' The Last Policeman (Quirk Books, 2012) opens in early 2012, just a few months after astronomers announced that an enormous meteor named Maia would be hitting Earth--on October 3rd. Into this world of limited time steps Hank Palace, recently promoted from Officer to Detective with the Concord Police Department. While others are "going Bucket List"--departing their everyday lives to live dangerously, sleep with strangers, travel the world, or whatever their bucket list may include--Palace is staying put, determined not just to do his job, but to do his job well.

Suffice it to say that Palace's dedication to his work raises some eyebrows as he investigates an apparent suicide--which Palace believes may actually have been cover-up for a murder--as those around him wonder what the point of solving a murder may be if the world is just going to end in six months?

Countdown City (Quirk Books, 2013) continue Winters' Last Policeman trilogy, this time pitting Detective Palace against the case of a missing person. But with Maia less than three months from impact, people are going missing left and right, and it's up to Palace to determine why this case is any different from the rest--and what he'll do if he finds his missing man.

Both of Winters' novels set relatively standard detective cases--an assumed murder, a missing persons investigation--against a backdrop of crisis and chaos, bringing a layer of pre-apocalyptic intrigue to what could otherwise be a simple police procedural. What is most fascinating about The Last Policeman trilogy is not the mystery to be solved, though Winters has crafted detailed and intriguing mysteries, but the decisions people make when they feel they are running out of time. Some stay, some go Bucket List. Some kill themselves, some kill others. Some get high, some get religious. The options are endless, and this never-ending combination of paths is what makes Winters' writing so absolutely compelling, challenging readers to consider: What would you do if you knew the world was going to end? And would your answer change as the date of impact got closer and closer?

The third novel in Winters' trilogy is due out from Quirk Books this month. If you haven't already read the first two volumes, get on it now so you're caught up by July 15th. And if you have already read them, check out Quirk's awesome pre-order campaign (which I was not paid to promote, I just think it's worth checking out).

Stay tuned for my review of the newest volume in the trilogy, plus a guest post from author Ben Winters on the best books to read to learn how to craft a mystery novel... I promise it will grow your reading list, whether you are an aspiring novelist or not.


Note: Thanks to the publisher for providing copies of both of these titles for review.
The Last Policeman | Ben Winters | Quirk Books | Trade Paperback | July 2012
Countdown City | Ben Winters | Quirk Books | Trade Paperback | July 2013

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