Review: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Book Cover - The Last PolicemanThe Last Policeman

Ben H. Winters

I knew just a few pages into the first chapter that I was going to give this gem 5 stars. It has everything I like in a book. It is unassuming but self-assured, well crafted but without artifice, engaging but not easy. It gets categorized as science fiction, and I suppose it qualifies on a superficial level. There is some science, but it is not set in a futuristic or post apocalyptic universe full of imagined technological wonders. Nothing in it is unfamiliar. It takes place in contemporary New England. The only thing that sets it apart from the world we know is that the world in the book is about to end from impact with a large asteroid.

Concord Police Detective, Henry Palace, catches a new case: an apparent suicide in a MacDonald’s restaurant men’s room. The crime scene doesn’t add up for Palace, but he’s new at his job. The more experienced detectives and the prosecutor’s office all want to call it suicide and get back to worrying about the approaching cataclysm. Palace plods doggedly through the evidence in a world gone mad over its shortened future. The work, the puzzle, the mystery of it, keep him sane, at least until it seems rather to be making him a little crazy.

This is one of those rare books where all the elements work together to create a truly immersive experience for the reader. The plot is unique, creative, and entirely plausible. The themes are consequential. The characters have depth and dimension and react to their various predicaments in realistic ways. The dialog is smart and impelling. And then there is the language. Oh, my.

You just don’t get language this good very often anymore. It is precise and intelligent, lovely where it needs to be, and always evocative. There were a lot of similes, which I noticed, not because there were so many, but rather because so many were really fine – on point and seamless, they glided by almost unnoticed, adding texture and richness without being obtrusive in the least.

Just wonderful stuff throughout. I really recommend this book to your attention . . . and, it’s the first book of a trilogy.

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