Book Review: The Last Policeman / Author: Ben H. Winters / Publisher: Quirk Books / Release Date: August 5th
The Last Policeman is set in a world not too dissimilar from our own, with one major difference. A 6.5 km asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, and within six months the vast majority of life on the planet will be wiped out, with the few human souls that survive the coming apocalypse living in permanent winter where the light of the sun will not penetrate the layers of debris thrown into the atmosphere by the impact.
The infrastructure that so many of us rely on is, slowly but surely, breaking down. People are quitting their jobs to spend time with their families, or to fill their last days with their 'bucket list' fantasies. Fuel and food are scarce. The electricity supply and mobile reception are sporadic, and getting worse as more people abandon their jobs and repairs to these core services are ignored. Suicide is so frequent that the police no longer bother investigating them.
Against this background, we are introduced to Detective Hank Palace. Hank has only been in the job for a few months, the resulting promotion because of an older colleague quitting to become a 'bucket lister'. When Hank is called to a probable suicide in the toilet of a McDonalds, it seems like an open and shut case. But something about it does not sit well with Hank. He thinks that a murder has been committed and spends the book struggling against a tide of apathy to try and prove that his instincts were right.
The Last Policeman is a fascinating novel. The characters are all well drawn, and the sense of defeat for almost every person in this world, as they wait for their inevitable demise, is a palatable force that drives the narrative along.
While the main plot of the book is fairly standard police procedural fare, the descriptions of society in terminal decline are absolutely riveting. This novel is apparently the first of a trilogy, and in truth, we really cannot wait for the next instalment.