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The Last Policeman [Paperback]

Ben H. Winters
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Aug 2012
"Last Policeman".

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books; First Printing edition (5 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594745765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745768
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.2 x 14.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 476,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy. For Winters, the beauty is in the details rather than the plot's grim main thrust --Kirkus Reviews; STARRED review--Absolutely outstanding...this gets the higest recommendation I can give. Buy it. --Classic Mystery, June, 2012---Normally, only Stephen King and Dean Koontz can suck me into a book and not release their stranglehold until I, exhausted from lack of sleep, have turned the last page. Now [Ben Winters] has joined their ranks... The Last Policeman is extraordinary as well as brilliant, surprising, and, considering the circumstances, oddly uplifting --Mystery Scene magazine, July, 2012----set in a world not too different 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 the case 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. I honestly can't ever remember reading a book that dealt with the way that society falls apart in the face of impending apocalypse before, and it makes for a very compelling read. 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, I really cannot wait for the next instalment. --Starburst Magazine, August, 2012-----This book may win the prize for the most intriguing premise of the year. If you knew that the world was going to end would you keep on doing the job that you do now? ........ Winters plays with the readers expectations and I ll admit there were a couple of moments that managed to catch me completely off guard. The thing to remember is that normal rules no longer apply, and character motivations are entirely different from what you would expect in a standard murder mystery. The good news is that there are another two novels set to follow on from The Last Policeman. One set three months before the asteroid is due to hit and one set in Earth s final month. I have to admit that I am already insanely curious about what is going to happen. .....Winters has left just enough loose ends in the plot to keep this reader interested. He has crafted a story that manages to avoid being entirely downbeat or pessimistic and instead offers just the smallest glimmer of hope. I have to admit that I kind of liked that. I ll be checking these out as soon as I can get my hands on them...... --The Eloquent Page, Sept, 2012

spinetingelingly brilliant.... --Readitdaddy, Feb, 2013--- The Last Policeman takes its high-concept premise and runs with it until it s breathless. It s part detective story, part mystery thriller, part science fiction tragedy, with more than a hint of romance, a sprinkle of dark comedy and a dash of investigative noir. The ticking clock of the rapidly approaching asteroid 2011GV1 and its effect on the world serve as a backdrop rather than the focus as with all good science fiction, The Last Policeman uses its basic premise to scratch at much more difficult questions beneath the surface. This is a genuinely engaging mystery novel that boldly asks us to consider what life is worth, and what truly defines us as individuals. The first in a planned trilogy, The Last Policeman not only presents a brilliant premise it executes it to perfection, remaining able to surprise and delight until the very last page. Undoubtedly one of 2012 s greatest works of literary fiction, riding shotgun in Henry Palace s department-issued Chevrolet Impala is a ride well worth taking --alternative magazine online, 2012 -- plotting is sure-footed and surprising...Ben H Winters reveals himself as a novelist with an eye for the well-drawn detail, Slate, 2012 -- sets a despondent detective on a suspicious case - while an asteroid hurtles towards earth, Wired, 2012-- I love this book. I stayed up untill seven in the morning reading because I could not stop. Full of compelling twists, likable characters, and a sad a gem--San Francisco Chronicle, 2012-- explores human emotions and relationships through situations that would be impossible (or, worse yet, metaphorical) in literary fiction. This is a book that asks big questions about civilisation, community, desperation, and hope. But it doesn't provide big, pat answers--io9, 2012-- A solidy plotted whodunnit with strong characters and excellent dialogue...the impending apocalypse isn't merely window dressing, either: it's a key piece of the puzzle Hank is trying to solve. This memorable tale is the first of a planned trilogy -- --Booklist, 2012

This thought-provoking mystery should appeal to crime fiction afficianados who like an unusual setting and readers looking for a fresh take on apocalypse stories -- Library Journal, 2012-- ...spins a wonderful tale while creating unique characters that fit in perfectly with the ever-changing societal pressures...will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment--New --New York Review of Books, 2012--

About the Author

BEN H. WINTERS is a New York Times bestselling author and an Edgar Award nominee. His novels include SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS (Quirk 2009; 10+ weeks on the NYT list), the Edgar-Award nominated YA novel THE SECRET LIFE OF MS. FINKLEMAN (HarperCollins 2009) and most recently BEDBUGS (Quirk, 2011), which was hailed by VANITY FAIR as a diabolical tale of paranoia. Ben lives in Cambridge with his wife and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The World is Ending. What do you do? 28 Aug 2012
This book may win the prize for the most intriguing premise of the year. If you knew that the world was going to end would you keep on doing the job that you do now?

Detective Henry `Hank' Palace is a man with on a mission. As the world is falling apart round about him, he tries to focus one hundred percent on the job in hand. As time passe, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to do this as more of the local population become apathetic towards anything other than their own wants and needs. This is where I think The Last Policeman really excels. Winters gripping prose drip feeds the reader details of the inevitable collapse of society. Events begin with just a few subtle hints of how bad things have become, but as time creeps ever forward you get a real sense that the situation is only going to get worse. Some give into their own melancholy, while others try to put a brave face on it. Through all this Detective Palace remains resolute.

Where I was surprised is that as the plot continues to unfold, there are some nice unexpected moments that force events off on completely different tangents. Winters plays with the readers expectations and I'll admit there were a couple of moments that managed to catch me completely off guard. The thing to remember is that normal rules no longer apply, and character motivations are entirely different from what you would expect in a standard murder mystery.

It'll hardly come as a surprise when I tell you that this sort of story prompts a certain amount of introspection? I think there would have to be something seriously wrong with you if you didn't start pondering what you would do in this situation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hank Palace has achieved his life's ambition to become a police detective in the small town of Concord. Unfortunately his promotions coincides with news that Earth is going to be hit by 6.5 kilometre wide asteroid travelling at speed. In the months before the coming apocalypse the economy has unravelled, some people have found religion, others are making plans to try and survive, or have given up work and are living one long party. And some are not waiting to find out if humanity will survive and are taking their own lives. One such man, an insurance actuary, has seemingly hung himself in a McDonalds' toilet stall. But Palace is not convinced. The world might be about to end in six months time, but he's going to continue to his job regardless of the general apathy and lack of resources. And if foul play is involved, he's going to make sure the perpetrator witnesses the event from behind bars.

The tag-line for The Last Policeman is `what's the point of solving murders if we're all going to die soon, anyway?' It brings an interesting twist to the story, providing an unusual framing. Otherwise, this is a straight up-and-down police procedural where Palace uses his skills and wits to piece together and solve a mystery puzzle. The construction of the story is well done, with Palace being misdirected or led down dead-ends, slowly working out the reason for the death. The characterisation is a little thin especially beyond Palace, suffering I think from the first person narrative, but it's made up for in the plot and premise. There was also more scope to explore the nature of a pre-apocalyptic society and elaborate some philosophical musings on the meaning of life and the human condition. However, the premise is used much more as context, rather than as foil. That's fine, but I felt it was a missed opportunity. Overall, an enjoyable, well written police procedural with a nice contextual twist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars clever mystery set in a pre-apocalyptic world 24 Sep 2012
Less than 6 months from now a very large asteroid called Maia will hit the Earth and over half the World's population will be killed in the impact with the rest living in an icy world thereafter. By April the impact site will be known to an accuracy of 15 miles. Concord in New England has become "Hanger city" as a number of suicides have chosen to take their lives through asphyxiation. When Henry (Hank) Palace discovers a hanger in a McDonalds rest room he thinks it's a suspicious death but has problems convincing his colleagues, the DA, the Coroner etc. Against the background of increasing religiosity, creeping despair and people "going bucketlist" Palace doggedly persues his hunch. A couple of things dented my enjoyment of this book which are perhaps less to do with the writing than my own issues. Firstly it's the first in a trilogy and the world will no doubt be more coloured in in later episodes and secondly I couldn't help but compare to the stunning "end of science fiction" which is very similar but in my opinion works so much better. I think if I'd come to the last policeman first I would have enjoyed it more perhaps. Another very minor problem I had was that they knew the date the asteroid would hit, they'd modelled it's trajectory and yet they didn't know where it would hit? I'm not sure this is plausible and it felt as though the location was kept unknown purely for narrative tension.
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This is a fast read, decently-written and with an interesting premise: an Extinction-Level-Event is going to occur in 6 months when an asteroid collides with Earth.

As would be expected, news of the impending end-of-the-world has resulted in a planetwide breakdown in social structures, including law enforcement. Many police have resigned or retired to pursue their Bucket Lists -- and as a consequence, Patrolman Hank Palace gets his dream promotion to Detective.

Unsurprisingly, suicides are on the rise -- so much so that they are no longer being investigated. But when Palace gets called to yet another self-hanging, something just doesn't seem right. Instinct and several small anomalies convince the detective that this was a murder -- and he doggedly pursues an investigation as the world continues to go to hell around him.

The writing and plotting are solid and the story kept me interested. I also give the author high marks for not "pulling an Agatha Christie" (finessing a solution out of thin air, which the reader could not possibly have reached by the clues given).

But... with such a tantalising setup and a flawed-but-really-likeable main character, I was really expecting -- hoping -- that the answer to the mystery would be interesting, rather than incredibly mundane, as it turned out to be. There was so much potential, but then the book just turned out to be an ordinary mystery placed in a science-fictional setting.

I enjoyed the book, and don't feel that the time I spent reading it was wasted. But what a disappointment, that the author didn't capitalise on the potential for a truly remarkable mystery.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Impressed
After finishing this book, I wondered why I had wasted my time reading it. Not a good sign. The fact that a giant meteorite is going to hit the earth is, despite it being the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John in Cornwall
3.0 out of 5 stars Premise over plot
I’m a big fan of grand ideas being conveyed with only a little push here, a little show there, some necessary tell elsewhere but the reader being trusted to fill in the gaps and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by jxn
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise and good story, but ultimately left my unfulfilled
The Last Policeman is a relatively short read, and deals with some really interesting concepts. How would civilisation survive, and in particular what the effect on law enforcement... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Cpl Hicks
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and at once familiar
A police procedural set in a pre-apocalyptic world, with a hero who's most explosive expletive is 'holy-moly'! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Iosaiph
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
In the face of an impending asteroid collision that will alter the world beyond recognition, with others going "bucket list", a dedicated detective pursues a puzzling... Read more
Published 11 months ago by P. Dudchenko
5.0 out of 5 stars It's the end of the world
The world is about to end in six months , rookie police detective Hank Palace investigates a suicide which may or may not be murder. Read more
Published 14 months ago by A. Browne
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift for my bro!
Arrives promptly - thank goodness as I'm a last minute present buyer- and in good condition. I haven't read it but my bro has raved about it and is a big fan!
Published 15 months ago by J. Maisey
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Clever, and as many twists as Michael Connolly. Nice price as well. Not paying full for the others yet, I'll wait till they come down as well.
Published 15 months ago by Nigel
4.0 out of 5 stars First not last Policeman in the trilogy
`The Last Policeman' by Ben Winters is the first instalment in a planned trilogy.

Detective Henry `Hank' Palace only ever wanted to become a police detective in the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Fencreative
4.0 out of 5 stars The End of the World is Nigh!
This is a really well-planned, characterised and written book. Its premise probably locks it into the sci-fi genre yet there is a good argument for it being seen as a simple... Read more
Published 17 months ago by T Marshall
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