What would you do if the world was ending in six months? Would you go traveling the world, hunker down and stockpile, or would you stick to your job and see it through to the end? That’s the question posed by Ben Winters in his latest novel, The Last Policeman, due for release on July 10th. You may be familiar with his other novels like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina. You may see one of his novels brought to life on the big screen. Film rights to Bedbugs has been sold to Tango Pictures. This one takes a decidedly somber tone as asteroid 2011GV1 hurtles toward Earth.
You would find me on a tropical beech somewhere enjoying a few cold ones, but that’s not what Henry Palace has in mind. As a recently promoted detective, Hank Palace, is dedicated to his job even as the world slowly falls apart at the seams. He’s extraordinarily focused on his policing duties. He was born for it. Joe Friday would like this guy.
An insurance company employee is found hanged in a McDonald’s bathroom. Under the circumstances, suicides are nothing unusual. All over the world, the suicide rate has spiked and the methods vary by geography. Concord, New Hampshire is known as a “hanger town.” Hank’s colleagues are quick to chalk up this cause of the obvious, but something doesn’t quite make sense. Despite objections, he launches an investigation and a detective noir unfolds against the backdrop of impending doom.
No one knows exactly how this scenario would truly play out, but it’s clear that Winters has done his homework. He met with Dr. Timothy Saphr at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory as well as police, prosecutors and economists. His research comes across as Hank navigates through a crumbling economy, rapidly shifting judicial system and technical failures seeking the answers for a covered-up homicide.
Hank’s investigation is the main thread weaving through the novel, but there are others involving Hank and global issues at play as governments argue over how to deal with the asteroid. His background is explored and the inspiration for his dedication is explored, but some of the supporting characters are one-note characters, like the disaffected cops.
This is the first in a trilogy, so don’t expect the conclusion to wrap up all the loose ends. There’s enough left open to make bring me back for the next installment. I want to see if the world goes out with a bang, a whimper or something completely unexpected.