BookGeek: The Last Policeman
I am officially very late to the party, if that party is the end of the world.
I tripped over The Last Policeman because Amazon recommended it to me and I needed a break from the endless creative nonfiction I've been reading over the semester. Published in 2012, it is a science fiction mystery (not quite a noir) by Ben H. Winters, and it is the first in a trilogy, winning the 2012 Edgar Award.
On the surface of it, The Last Policeman is a straightforward whodunit, with a fledgling detective assigned to a death investigation that everyone else is convinced is a suicide, but there is something about it that just bothers him. As he dives into the dead man's life, he begins to suspect there is much more going on here, etc.
Yes, it's your basic mystery plot. But here's the twist: All this is happening during the six months before a giant planet-killer asteroid strikes Earth. The worldbuilding is fascinating, imagining the political, economic, social and psychological impact on a near- future U.S. in which the end of the world is certain. Some people opt for their "bucket list," as there is no future for which to plan. Some people opt out, as suicides skyrocket.
And some solve crimes, even though the police are just going through the motions at this point.
I found it oddly compelling, even though the mystery itself was rather lackluster (I had the killer pegged way out). Most of the critics seemed to agree that it is the vision of a pre-apocalyptic world that draws the attention here, and for that Winters did extensive research. He also chose to set it in Concord, N.H. rather than the done-to-death New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago. It's fun to read pieces that really develop a sense of place, especially when it isn't the same three cities we've destroyed over and over again in science fiction.
I can recommend The Last Policeman without reserve, and will be picking up the sequels as soon as I finish the Murderbots....