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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars

on 9 October 2016
Fascinating premise, great book. Terrible Kindle edition. Really disappointed by the quality of the transcription. Full of really jarring mistakes that take you out of the story. Mostly occasional runs of missing spaces or punctuation and repeated words that ruin the flow of reading and make you stop to figure out the correct reading. Disappointing. Amazon need to institute some quality control.
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on 21 April 2017
Great characters, great narrative arc. Talented writer. Believable pre apocalyptic view of society slowly coming apart. I'm off to get the next two books in this trilogy.
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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. Could you maintain some semblance of normality or would you throw it all in to follow your dreams while there was still some time left? It's not often that a crime novel leads to that sort of internal debate.

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. There is a sub plot concerning Hank and the relationship he has with his sister, Nico. Both their parents are already dead and Nico is the only family that Hank has left. She is involved with some potentially shady people and there is a suggestion that there is a huge conspiracy going on. I do hope this is something that is explored in the other two novels.

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 Last Policeman is published by Quirk Books and is available now. Recommended.
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on 14 May 2017
I've been writing a long time, and here's the thing. I thought I knew how to write great dialogue, until I read this guy, Ben H. Winters. His characters are vibrant, and the dialogue is smart, fresh and funny. I hate him. Fine, I envy him, okay? Let me explain.

When I write dialogue, I try to give a sense of the character through their words without a lot of backstory. I also try to keep things moving forward and, while I'm at it, make the words interesting--funny, if possible. Here's a snippet from "The Last Policeman." Henry Palace, a rookie police detective, is on the phone with a local merchant. The merchant speaks first.

"Is this a joke?"
"No, sir."
"I mean, are you joking?"
"No, sir."
"All right, buddy."
"I'm investigating a suspicious death, and the information might be material."
"Alllll right, buddy."

Pure gold, my friends. That last line had me on the floor. And there's lots more where that came from.

If you like a well-written mystery that's a little off, with great characters and poignant prose, then read this book. You won't be disappointed. I'll leave you with this quote:

"The end of the world changes everything, from a law-enforcement perspective."
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on 22 July 2014
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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on 24 August 2012
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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on 24 September 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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on 2 March 2017
Fabulous. Beautifully written. And the next two are even better
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on 24 April 2013
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 murder-mystery. I prefer not to pigeon-hole it beyong it being good writing.

The story is quite simple, the lead character is a police detective after it has been confirmed that the world will end due to a large asteroid hitting it in the near future. The earth itself has almost predictably gone mad with drug-abuse, suicide, mass-hysteria and psychotic breaks all-round. The problem for most people on earth is that the year's warning they have been given is slightly too long a period of time to be hysterical for and so a fair number of people continue to try and work and survive in a normal manner. Our detective is one of these as he investigates what could potentially be a fake suicide which is actually a murder during these increasingly troubled times.

I found the protagonist of this story to be as interesting as the time he was forced to live in and held a great deal of empathy for him as he tried to maintain a straight line whilst the earth literally was being shaken under his feet. I would love to see an attempt at this book being filmed as it is written in an extremely visual style, and ultimately is a good story.

I would recommend this book highly to any who enjoy a good page-turner. It only missed out on five stars for me because if anything the author doesn't go crazy enough with what 'ordinary' people would be like under such circumstances. Overall though very good.
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on 25 November 2012
I was delighted by this book. Acquired after I read a very positive review on BoingBoing, I read through it very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the way Winters entirely subverts the detective genre. His exploration of motives - the fact that the main (first-person) character is clearly holding his own despair at arm's length by focusing obsessively on his work - is beautifully enhanced by multiple apparent dead-ends, a nicely subverted romantic relationship, and a sibling relationship that clearly has much to reveal over the next couple of novels (the main character's sister isn't just psychotic, she's also a mathematician - so there's clearly plenty of food for entertainment there, although judging by Winters's approach, he's going to play with our expectations along this particular plotline, too).

I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys detective fiction, but also loves to see the genre subverted with such loving confidence!
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