Ben Winters was my favorite speaker at the 2012 Gathering of Writers, but at the time I’d never read anything of his. I’d only heard of Android Karenina. It was Cathy Day that introduced me to The Last Policeman, and oh god I’m glad she did.
If you’re anything like me, all you need is a little bit of the summary to be convinced to read it:
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?
Yep, there, done, I’m in. Let’s see the rest of the summary, 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.
It’s a murder mystery set with an imminent apocalypse at hand. What.
If you dig murder mysteries, you’ll like this. If you dig apocalyptic stories, you’ll like this. Sure, the apocalypse hasn’t quite happened yet during this book (it’s the first in a trilogy, so we may see the apocalypse yet), but when the entire world knows that they’re about to die you start to see the affects. People quit their jobs to go fulfill their bucket lists. Only the military and police get gasoline rations. Alcohol and drug prices go through the roof. Most prices go through the roof. And, most importantly to the story, a hell of a lot of people start killing themselves.
Pretty much every death in that time is a suicide. They happen all the time. It wasn’t unusual to find a man hanged in the bathroom of what used to be a McDonalds. But Detective Palace thinks something’s hinky, and against the advice of his colleagues and senior officers, he decides to investigate the death as a murder. Six months to go, and he still believes it’s important to solve murders. Do you already love this character? I do. He’s far from perfect, but that’s kind of what tends to make characters really good. I wanted to keep reading about him. When I finished the book and realized it was a trilogy (the next one, Disasterland, is due out this July), I just sort of flopped on my bed and agonized over having to wait for more.
I also proposed to Ben Winters on Twitter, as is my habit when a book particularly captures me. So far I’ve had my proposal accepted by Holly Black. Ben has yet to reply, probably because he’s busy being married and also being an insanely awesome writer. Go read him.