Quirk Books, out now
If the end of the world is imminent, is there any point in investigating a suspicious death?
Ben Winters’ detective novel is a neat mystery centred around an actuary whose suicide isn’t as clear cut as it initially appears – certainly to newly promoted Detective Hank Palace, who is determined to tie up the loose ends. Winters provides the necessary clues to help the reader follow Palace’s deductions, and doesn’t cheat.
Ben Winters’ science fiction novel is a very effective psychological look at how mankind would change if global destruction isn’t just likely, but absolutely inevitable – an asteroid is going to hit the Earth. The world is going to be destroyed. All that isn’t clear as The Last Policeman kicks off is where exactly the impact is going to be…
The combination of the two is a real winner: motives which would be discounted out of hand in an ordinary investigation take on far more relevance in a world where everyone knows the maximum length of time they have to live. Would you end it all early? Kill your pets before they’re forced to try to survive in the hostile environment which will follow the impact? Would you decide to do whatever it is that has always tugged at the back of your mind? The detectives who remain in post – and the support mechanism around of them of labs, medical examiners etc. – have their own reasons, but there are some for whom the investigation is paramount.
Verdict: Sometimes when genres are mixed, as here, the end result isn’t satisfactory to fans of either; The Last Policeman should intrigue both mystery and SF fans – and there are two more novels to come. 8/10