Friday, August 5, 2016
Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: THE LAST POLICEMAN (2012) by Ben H. Winters
Now would not seem the time for reading dystopian novels set in an alternate USA, but what the heck. Live dangerously, I say.
The Edgar Award winning novel, THE LAST POLICEMAN, by Ben H. Winters is the first in a trilogy (brought the second and third installments home from the library tonight) and though the subject matter is dicey, I was utterly fascinated and had trouble putting the book down - I know, I know, I always say that about books I enjoy. But terrific writing glued me to the page. I was also riveted by the intriguing concept.
If the definitive end of the world were near, would you bother to keep your normal day to day routine? Would you stay on the job? Do the job? Would any of it matter? OR would you take the 'easy' way out?
The setting is Concord, New Hampshire. There, Henry (aka, Hank) Palace, a newly promoted detective in a dwindling force (most have retired or simply walked away from the job) is determined to solve a case even while faced with the upcoming end of the world. Literally.
Hank is a native Concordian (is that the way you'd say it?), young, gangly and very, very tall. So much so that everyone has to comment. Though I wouldn't say that six feet four or five is THAT tall, but maybe in New Hampshire. He is an engaging, even endearing character who is determined to make his life count, determined to do the right thing even when faced with insurmountable odds.
And the odds are spectacular.
Earth is on its final countdown. A giant meteorite is directly headed our way and the world and most everything on it has six months to live. As you might imagine, societal barriers are in break-down mode. Day to day living is wobbly at best. Gallows humor is the norm. Suicide has become a routine death. Religious zealotry confronts one on every street corner. World economies have tanked. Conspiracy theorists run amok. Governments rally to strengthen their control and keep the populace from panicking.
No one cares about the suicide of Peter Zell, a hapless insurance actuary who hangs himself in the bathroom at a MacDonald's. (Well, a copy-cat MacDonald's, since that and most other fast food chains have all gone out of business - what, no Starbucks?)
But did Zell really hang himself?
Hank Palace thinks not. But since the three other cops left in his division don't care to detect anymore, it's up to Hank to solve what might be a murder in disguise. AND it is also up to him to keep tabs on his clinging sister, Nico, who is apparently willing to put up with her dolt of a hubby even if he is currently in jail, branded a terrorist.
This lively, fast-moving tale is probably meant for those of us who may not normally enjoy dystopian views of the world, even in fiction (I am not a fan of HUNGER GAMES or any of its ilk) but who do like a good detective yarn with some extra fireworks thrown in. Somehow THE LAST POLICEMAN breaks down all barriers. Resistance is futile. The main character is the first lure, terrific writing is the second. And even the inevitable world ending scenario didn't dim my enthusiasm. Probably because Winters is not a hysterically inclined writer - his page by page exposition of life nearing the end, is rather matter-of-fact and utterly believable.
I would have given this five stars except for a couple of things in the final denouement which I found a bit confusing. (Hank does do a bit of stumbling around.) That is, the way that he finally figures out who the murderer is - the reasoning seems a bit clunky. But other than that, this is a super-duper, first rate book, highly recommended by yours truly. Can't wait to read the next two.
It's Friday, so don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.
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I can never express how much I love all three books. I have yet to read one of his books I don't love. I have Underground Airlines waiting to be read.ReplyDelete
I was VERY impressed by this first book, Ryan. Next two coming up. But I couldn't get beyond the first few chapters of UNDERGROUND AIRLINES. TOO upsetting for me.Delete
I liked this one a lot but the ending, which partly sets up the next books in the series, does leave some hanging threads, I agree.ReplyDelete
I wasn't sure at first if the whole concept would work for me, but it did. Picked up the next two at the library last night.Delete
I liked this book the best of the three. I am looking forward to reading Underground America by this author.ReplyDelete
Well, much as I wanted to, I simply could not get beyond the first few chapters in UNDERGROUND AIRLINES. Much too upsetting for me. I just couldn't get beyond my own emotions on that one.Delete
I'm really not big into dystopian fiction - in fact, the very word is enough to make me drop a book. But a friend whom I admire recommended The Last Policeman heartily, so I read it late last year. I'm so glad I did. And so glad that you also enjoyed it. :-)ReplyDelete
Sometimes our friends know what they're talking about. :) By the way I do agree with you about 'dystopian' fiction - merely the word is enough for me to move on. This time I'm glad I didn't.Delete
These books only get better as the trilogy goes along. I think the mystery elements, of which I was very critical in this first book, also improve. The second one is more of a thriller. By the third book (his best, I think) Winters shows he has mastered crime fiction plotting fundamentals, something many crime writers don't give a damn about anymore. I very much enjoyed these books. Collectively they are an uncommon example of a trilogy that works and improves as it progresses. So often my reading experience shows that trilogies suffer from fresh ideas that peter out and plotting becomes repetitive.ReplyDelete
Thanks, John. You know when you're enthusiastic, I like to jump on the bandwagon. Trilogies, yeah, sometimes you just know the author planned three because that's what publishers seem to buying most these days.Delete
I enjoyed all three in the series, but haven't read anything else by him, yet. But, he is on my TBR list, so OOTD. . .
I'm a new fan, Fred. Really enjoyed this one. I love when a book surprises me.Delete
Same here. I had never heard of Winters when I encountered a reference to The Last Policeman. I read a lot of SF and mysteries, so this seemed to be an interesting blend of the two genres.
Sounds like a mix of When Worlds Collide and Vertigom Yvette. And if you like it, I'm thinking I will, too.ReplyDelete
I hope you do, Mathew. Well, so far everyone who's read it has liked it. So the odds are good. :)Delete
I agree with your assessment of this book and I enjoyed the whole series. I liked all of the dystopian books I have read so far. I like that it changes the rules and allows more leeway.ReplyDelete
I am afraid I will have the same reaction to UNDERGROUND AIRLINES that you did. My husband has purchased a copy so I will give it a try after he reads it.