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The Last Policeman

por Ben H. Winters

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Séries: The Last Policeman (1)

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2,1251857,607 (3.81)1 / 288
When the Earth is doomed by an imminent and unavoidable asteroid collision, New Hampshire homicide detective Hank Palace considers the worth of his job in a world destined to end in six months and investigates a suspicious suicide that nobody else cares about.
  1. 40
    Countdown City por Ben H. Winters (sturlington)
    sturlington: Countdown City is the sequel to the Last Policeman
  2. 10
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union por Michael Chabon (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: Noir mysteries exploring interesting hypothetical settings with ticking timers.
  3. 00
    The Fractal Murders por Mark Cohen (JanesList)
    JanesList: I can't explain quite why, but these two detectives remind me of each other.
  4. 00
    We all looked up por Tommy Wallach (meggyweg)
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 Post-apocalyptic Literature: The Last Policeman by Ben Winters11 não lido / 11reading_fox, Setembro 2015

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Mostrando 1-5 de 190 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
The premise teeters on the edge of ridiculous, but manages to stay on the credible side. The descriptions of the slowly dissolving institutions bolster the plot. A fun ride; I look forward to reading the second book.
  mattbonner | Feb 25, 2024 |
3.5 rounded up, because I'm intrigued and want to see what happens in the remaining six months (enough for two other books/cases, apparently).

Biere Library Storytime Book Club's October/November 2023 pick for the pulp/noir genre! It definitely fits the quick read I'd associate with pulp, along with being a detective story that has red herrings and a dame in distress (kinda, I'm sort of counting Nico's calls to her brother and Naomi here). The asteroid is a looming presence which makes this feel like near-future sci-fi, and I'm still wondering about the calculated number Hank finds.

I definitely am interested in seeing more of how people respond when they definitively know that there's a finite end, along with the implications and repercussions (or does anything matter? Or maybe if nothing matters, what you do with your time matters more?)

I did not solve the murder before Detective Palace did. ( )
  Daumari | Dec 28, 2023 |
I loved this book. Part mystery, part end of the world story. This book is going to end up being on my ten favorites of the year and it is only January. ( )
  cdaley | Nov 2, 2023 |
A routine detective story enlivened by an interesting concept, Ben Winters' The Last Policeman is entertaining despite failing to harness its great potential. Hank Palace, its detective protagonist, is investigating a suicide by hanging that he believes is a murder. The world is due to end, you see, in six months – an asteroid has been spotted on a collision course with Earth – and suicides are becoming understandably common.

I'm not a great lover of crime writing, but even so I found Winters' own contribution to this saturated genre rather underwhelming. The suicide/murder is rather banal and lacks mystery, the procedural is uninspiring and hard to follow, and the writing itself lacks twists or pace. The characters are decent enough, but nothing special. Winters' also fails to utilise his small-town-America setting, despite this being the perfect scenario for a mystery story with some strange goings-on.

Nevertheless, while Winters is not the greatest suspense writer, he alighted upon an interesting idea. This is enough to sustain the book through its lesser moments, and it remains an easy and agreeable read throughout. The approaching asteroid is unfortunately under-utilised in a practical sense: as society unravels, no one has much gas, and cellphone service has become unreliable, but such things do not prove a hindrance on the protagonist's investigation. "The very idea of motive must be reexamined in the context of the looming tragedy," our detective muses (pg. 116), but this cosmic game-changer rarely imposes itself.

In a way, it's good that this is the case; The Last Policeman is, thankfully, not a novelty thriller in which our hero is in a superficial race against time to solve the case and save the world. Winters is smart enough to avoid this clichéd trap. Instead, the prospect of the approaching asteroid is always there to provide a useful juxtaposition; an existential undercurrent (unfortunately, again, largely unexploited by Winters) where we wonder why our protagonist is still making such effort to solve a banal crime when, in a few months, it'll all be moot anyway. It's a great theme, and not only makes our protagonist more interesting but provides a different lens through which to view the world.

"People in the main are simply muddling along," our detective observes on page 61. "Go to work, sit at your desk, hope the company is still around come Monday." Is this ennui so different from our own world, only thrown into sharper relief by impending cataclysm? Is its economic ennui so very different from our own, particularly in light of our own real-life cataclysm – the Covid pandemic – which showed just how banal great upheavals can be? The government's actions in Winters' book, suspending habeas corpus, and emergency actions by the IMF also reminded me of lockdown, though of course Winters would not have known this when writing in 2012. "A lot of CEOs have cashed in their chips," Winters writes on page 36, and this also has echoes of our own story, in which giving back to society, or even routine tax-paying, seems to be optional among a certain class. "People [are] hiding behind the asteroid, like it's an excuse for poor conduct, for miserable and desperate and selfish behaviour" (pg. 255), and by writing about such hiding, Winters brings it into the light for the reader.

This, then, is the great appeal of a book that, while perfectly serviceable and easy to read, is otherwise unremarkable. The Last Policeman might not be engrossing in its central crime mystery, nor even in its approaching asteroid apocalypse, but the concept does give us a perspective that is quite unique and singularly interesting – and Winters does not fumble it. His detective protagonist fascinates despite his and the book's banality because as readers we instinctively admire someone who goes about their business quietly and decently. The charm of this book, which elevates it far beyond its objective quality, is "the perseverance in this world, despite it all, of things done right" (pg. 86). It's someone just trying to do the right thing, thankless as it is, in a world of economic ennui, societal self-centredness and any excuse for drug-taking or not doing one's bit. Gods, are we sure this should even be marked as 'fiction'? ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Sep 23, 2023 |
I distinctly remember watching "Don't look up" and contemplating what I would do if I knew for certain that our world was ending in a few months (and what I'd do if half the population refused to believe it because...fake news. *sigh*). I have a list, I edit it once in a while but it's not a Bucket List. This book reminded me that I need to add "moving to a tropical climate" as a final stop so I can go out with a view of the great blue ocean just before some massive fireball touches down on us. I hate winter....and Autumn so I would rather just bake my way to the apocalypse. The argument for "The Bad Place" gets easier if you tell me it's warm down there.

Okay so first things first, what I found strangely enjoyable was that the names in this book are absolutely bonkers for both people and places. I found myself literally pausing to go "wait huh? Okay cool" whenever a name would pop up. Let's take a gander at people shall we: Henry Palace, Mr Victor France, some guy named Dotseth, Another named Mr Gompers-, and Eric with a K who didn't immediately appear to be the devil as with all Eriks (but wait, turns out he was a bit of a doomsday religionist so...50/50 living up to the K in his name). I spent a quarter of the time reading these names like "Hmmm, is Winters playing a word game, some hidden code because no way does every name sound so ridiculously unreal." And the places. There is a street called School Street but no school, and a neighborhood called Pill Hill and there may have been pills there who knows- come on this has got to be an inside joke between the author and someone.

Anyway, to the Last Homicide Detective in a world that has given up, thrown in the towel and is actively counting down the few short months to annihilation.

To say that this book is a unique approach to the end of the world feels like an understatement. Here is a newly promoted detective, tasked with rubber stamping inevitable suicides as the mental health of the planet's inhabitants takes a beating with the knowledge that it all end in 5 short months. Yet here is detective Henry Palace (focused, careful, neat and has a thousand blue notepads) and he's caught a murder. Nobody cares, dead now or dead in 5 months, the outcome is the same. Murder, Suicide or flaming asteroid with no regard for the planet in its way - the outcome is the same. Everyone winds up dead. So why does he insist on following the motions of "investigating" and asking questions? A part of me thinks it's because he is newly promoted, and it's his first murder case - but nope, I think Palace is wired to follow through in an almost militaristic way. He doesn't just go through the motions passively - he is active (don't mistake that for energy) and thorough.

Perhaps that is how he wants to go out - as the detective who solved the last open murder case in the world.

( )
  RoadtripReader | Aug 24, 2023 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Winters, Ben H.autor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Horner, DoogieDesignerautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
McGurk, John J.Production managerautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Pushnik, JonathanCover photoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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"Even for Voltaire, the supreme rationalist, a purely rational suicide was something prodigious and slightly grotesque, like a comet or a two-headed sheep." -- A. Alvarez, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide
"And there's a slow, slow train comin', up around the bend." -- Bob Dylan, "Slow Train"
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To Andrew Winters, of the Concord Winters
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I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't.
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When the Earth is doomed by an imminent and unavoidable asteroid collision, New Hampshire homicide detective Hank Palace considers the worth of his job in a world destined to end in six months and investigates a suspicious suicide that nobody else cares about.

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