All is not as it appears, right from the start of this novel. It looks like a suicide, and yet rookie Detective Hank Palace isn’t sure of that. Still, he wonders what the point is to investigate further. It’s only a feeling he has that it could be murder, and what will it matter when the world is certain to end in six months. That’s right, the major twist in this novel is asteroid 2011GV which is on a direct heading to earth, and nothing will stop it. The science is undeniable. The end of the world has been announced. The only questions left are the date and the precise location.
Life on earth has changed with this asteroid news. People, including other police officers, are walking off their jobs to pursue their bucket lists and other end of world desperate pursuits. Is there any reason now for Detective Palace to investigate what by all accounts appears to be suicide? With the end of the world a certainty, suicide has become sadly epidemic. Is it really so hard to believe this one? No one else seems to care, including the dead man’s family. Is perseverance in this world to do the right thing, despite circumstances, part of human nature? How important is one man’s death?
It’s a fascinating character study to see questions of motive in this new light, with the asteroid approaching. The end of the world changes everything from a law enforcement perspective. The dead man worked in the insurance industry, which is affected in its own way by the world news. Is there motive there for murder? Or motive for suicide? When the detective notifies the man’s family, curious dynamics ensue.
Hank Palace is struggling with his own personal and family issues throughout this novel as well, which brings another dimension to his job and to the chaos around him. This novel combines the best of detective investigation with philosophical debate and science fiction.
Ben H. Winters is the author of eight novels, including most recently World of Trouble (Quirk), the concluding book in The Last Policeman trilogy. The Last Policeman was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award, and it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate. As I read, I was working side by side with Detective Palace to uncover clues, follow leads, and to seek meaning in a human life.
Thereby hangs a tale . . . .
— By Wendy Kendall
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.