The Last Policeman by Ben Winters

Hlast policemanow do you review a book that’s really just fun?

I don’t mean to dismiss either fun or the book, but what do you do  when all you really have to say about a book is that you had a good time reading it?

I had a very good time reading The Last Policeman, but I just don’t really have much to say beyond that.

It was fun.

I’m going to read the second book in the trilogy very soon.

I find it a little strange to say that this particular book was fun.  Reading detective stories for fun is a little suspect to begin with, since they usually rely on at least one murder to serve as their subject, but finding one set just a few months before an asteroid collides with the earth ending life as we know it–much the way things went for the dinosaurs–fun kind of makes me wonder about me.

Why is the end of the world such a good time?  Why is murder such a good time?  Why wouldn’t both of them in the same book be an extra good time?

The Last Policeman features Hank Palace who has been fast-tracked to the rank of detective, what with so many other police employees leaving their jobs since the world is about to end;  some for simple retirement, others to complete the items on their bucket lists before we all go.  Hank Palace has always wanted to be a detective; if he only has a few months to do the job, he’s going to do the job as best he can.

When he’s called to the scene of an apparent suicide, he is the only one to suspect foul play.  That his investigation leads him to uncover a much larger plot and to additional murders comes as no surprise to readers of detective fiction, that he has to negotiate what’s left of society in the days before the end is what makes this particular novel so much fun.

Would you keep working if the world had only a few months left?  What if you needed money to survive those few months?  Would your employer be able to continue paying you?  Everybody still wants to use their cell phones, but why keep paying the bill?  As the people who keep the communication grid functioning stop working, either by quitting their jobs or by quitting their lives, cell phone service declines to only a few functioning hours a day.   Just about everything else follows this pattern as society declines while Detective Hank Palace keeps working his case, looking for evidence, searching for answers.

I especially liked his colleague who keeps chasing suspects hoping he can have one last chance to draw his gun and  yell “Stop, motherf—-r! Police!”

Stuff like that makes for one fun read.

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7 Comments

  1. I agree it’s hard to review a book that’s a lot of fun but isn’t strictly good “literature.” Those sorts of books totally screw up one’s rating system! LOL

    1. I think the writing is fine in The Last Policeman, but it’s the fun you’ll have with it that makes it worth reading.

  2. (giggling) I completely understand and agree that some things are just fun. But as we both work in education, I’m laughing a little that this reminds me of trying to get some of the reluctant kids to write about their reading. When they look at you with that pleading “What more do you want from me?” expression on their faces. But it is summer vacation….

    1. I have had several students admit that they should have picked a different book since they knew they would have to write a paper about it. We can usually figure something out, but they learn their lesson before they’re done writing it.

  3. TracyK says:

    I loved this review, and I think it entices a person to try the book, which is one of the aims if you like the book. I did read the book, I did enjoy it immensely and I agree with all you say. I am waiting until my husband buys book 3 and then I am reading book 2 and 3 together.

    I sometimes have the same experience where all I want to say about a book is “I liked it a lot” and I have a hard time explaining why. Since most of what I read is crime fiction of all types, that doesn’t raise an issue for me. Anyway, great post.

    1. Thanks Tracy. I think I may read books two and three together as well. Book one was a fairly fast read for me. I hope the fun continues through to the end of the series.

  4. Jay says:

    I’m reading this right now. Ben Winters is launching his book tour (for the third book in this series) at a bookstore here in Indy this afternoon. I plan to go and will probably post briefly about it afterward. I’m only about halfway through this one as of right now,but have had “fun” reading it also.

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