“Perfect.” That’s the word I heard in my brain when I first saw that Ben H. Winters’ new novel, the last one in a trilogy, called The Last Policeman had been published. I made a decision to begin with Book One because I love science-fiction and I love detective stories and, of course, it is necessary to begin at the beginning. This series of books sounded right up my alley. And, so far, it is.
It’s fairly bare bones writing but it gets the job done, in fact the author’s style suits the plot. Winters is writing about an American society that is disintegrating because, this time, the asteroid headed our way will actually hit earth. People even know the date the planet and asteroid will collide, but not the location on earth where it will make contact. It’s a big asteroid. Probably not big enough to obliterate earth, but perhaps big enough to obliterate man.
What would you do if you knew you had an appointment with a cosmic accident that would change everything, but this appointment was several months in the future? Would you change your life, give up you day job; or would you just keep working? Many people would probably have to keep their jobs. These people live paycheck to paycheck already. So people like this would live in fear of the asteroid, but also in fear that their employer will close the doors of the business where they work and where will they be then? However, lots of employers have enough money to make an end-of-life plan, to change things up, and sometimes, because the world is changing so fast, many businesses no longer have customers so businesses are closing.
Henry Palace is a policeman, has always wanted to be a policeman and he just made detective not long ago. The police force is basically a mess, with policemen having all the life crises that other people are facing all over the globe. But Henry is steadfast. He is a policeman. He is not suicidal. He is doing exactly what he loves to do and he sees no reason to change, although everyone around him finds him sort of ridiculous.
For some reason when Henry finds alleged hanger (someone who commits suicide by hanging) Peter Zell in a McDonald’s bathroom, hanging from an upscale leather belt, against all logic (according to everyone else) Henry decides that Peter Zell is a victim of a murder.
With the asteroid looming larger and larger in people’s psyches (if not yet within their view) Henry Palace sets his tall lanky self off on an investigation which receives more pushback than anyone would encounter in more normal circumstances. Henry takes a lot of punishment as he researches this incident which only he (and perhaps one other person) believes is a murder.
The Last Policeman was a great combo for me – sci-fi and murder mystery – and I accept Henry Palace as a detective and as a well-drawn character. This works and I can’t wait to see if it continues to work in the next two books.
By Nancy Brisson
<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>