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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

GUEST REVIEW- The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

This is a review written by a brilliant librarian...that I happen to date :) Hope you enjoy.

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

This novel is, on its surface, a solid police procedural. Hank Palace is the newest detective for the Concord, NH police force. He is investigating the supposed suicide of an insurance adjuster. A suicide that might not be a suicide is a pretty common trope in the mystery novel. Yet, in this case, what makes this simple suicide leap ahead of others is the fact that in Hank Palace’s world a planet-killing asteroid is going to slam into the Earth in six months. October 3rd is the date of the end of the world. So, as society is crumbling around him, people leaving their jobs to go "Bucket List," others heading down to New Orleans to spend their last days on earth drunk and stoned, and lots of others are committing suicide, he has to decide if solving this apparent suicide is even worth the effort.

This book is great in that it really got me thinking about what I would do in such a situation. It also makes one think of very general, but important questions, from the meaning of life, to the purpose of justice, and what horrible things we would do to protect our loved ones from the knowledge of the terrible things there are in life. One of the characters makes a statement on how she envies the dinosaurs. How easy it would be to be completely ignorant of the end and just live your day-to-day life right until the end. This reminded me of a story told about the Christian reformer Martin Luther, working in his garden, someone asked him, “What would you do if you knew that Armageddon was tomorrow?” He replied, “Finish planting this tree.” That seems to be the attitude of Hank towards his job. It is an attitude that I can’t help but admire. Yet, I wonder if I would have the same kind of strength if I faced the same situation.

This book gave me a lot to think about and the more I think about it the more I like it. So five stars!

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