As I mentioned in another review, I don’t read mysteries. They’re just that one genre that has never interested me. Kind of like country music. I’ll listen to pop and rock and classical and electronic and I’ll even dip into jazz if it’s not cracked, but I don’t want to hear that sappy, twangy stuff. It’s just never going to entice me. Mystery’s the same way. I don’t have a head for the plotting, to start with, and so much of the characterization generally takes a back seat… It’s not for me. But Ben H. Winter’s Last Policeman trilogy is always categorized in the mystery section. And despite my dislike for these types of things, I absolutely love this series.
Henry is a detective who has just taken on a new case. To him, the suicide he’s staring at looks more like a murder, and all he wants is to get to the bottom it. The problem is that the world’s ending. Not long from now, an asteroid will crash into the Earth, causing chaos, killing millions, destroying ecosystems. Making life virtually impossible. No one cares about Henry’s case because almost all anyone cares about is doing as they please for their last months alive. But for Henry, doing what he wants is doing his job.
There is a lot of mystery here‐ why Henry’s suicide case actually ended up dead, and whether or not he’s actually a suicide, is the majority of the plot. It wasn’t hard to follow, though‐ there were no really weird twists to make the plot seem more complex than it was, so it was never confusing. It was straightforward‐ on that end of things. However, the plot, or maybe I should just say the book, does get really interesting when the author starts delving into how people are feeling and what they’re doing and how they’re living and reacting to each other in a world that’s about to end. I’ve read a lot of post apocalyptic novels, but never a true PRE‐apocalyptic one, and this is just genius. The emotions and choices and bonds created and broken, and how they’re all looked at, is gorgeous and scary and so beautifully done that it never feels forced or contrived. It’s very natural.
Another thing I loved about these books is the insanely great characterization. It’s smooth and effortless and very subtle, but almost as soon as you start reading, right from the first sentence, really, you know who these people are. I knew Henry. I knew his sister and his co‐workers and his friends. I even knew the victim of the case he was trying to solve. And I liked Henry. He was a unique person, interesting, deep in some ways and too open for his own good in others. I enjoyed spending my time with him.
The best thing about these books, though, is how well written they are. I can’t remember the last time I read anything that was just so satisfying. It just felt good to read these. They weren’t confusing, but they definitely weren’t insipid or flat or easy, either. There’s a wealth of emotion and passion and hurt and anger and fear and grief and love in these books, experienced by the characters, and you feel it. You definitely do. But as I read, I also felt so completely happy to be absorbed in the graceful, effortless writing style‐ so subtle that you don’t really feel like you’re hearing the author at all. It’s all the book, the characters. It’s incredibly good.
There are three books in the Last Policeman series, starting with ‘The Last Policeman,’ then ‘Countdown City’ and finally ‘World of Trouble.’ I liked the second book the best, but they’re all incredible, and they need to be read in order.