Countdown City, the second novel in The Last Policeman trilogy, shows no signs of middle-book sag. If anything, it is even more gripping than the first. The countdown to the asteroid strike has continued. When the book begins, there are only seventy-seven days left before the end of the world. Hank Palace, former policeman, is asked by his former babysitter to please find her husband. Even though it is “a missing persons investigation is especially challenging in the current environment,” he sets out in search of the man, learning more about himself and about the end of the world he is trying not to think about in the process.
The decay that was starting in The Last Policeman has accelerated here. There are still some restraints and some markets operating on the barter system, but many more businesses are boarded up and the tension has increased as has the violence. All through the investigation, as Hank follows leads, people ask him “Why are you doing this?” and suggest various possible answers.
Hank continues to try to be a good policeman in an environment where all previous assumptions come under question. As in the previous book, Winters has taken traditional noir tropes and turned them upside down. Hank Palace is the lone detective, standing against what others believe—only, in this case, the beliefs he holds to are those we would call normal, if the world weren’t ending. There is a “dame” to whom the detective is attracted—the detective’s former babysitter, on whom he once had a crush. The world is a dark and dismal place because it is about to end. People’s motives and behavior continue to come under scrutiny.
The mystery of what Nico and her friends are doing continues to evolve. They have resources most people don’t. They are planning for survival. Hank still refuses to really investigate, dismissing Nico’s arguments as so much urban rumor and delusional hope. By the end of the book, he is realizing he still has to find his sister, and that is going to mean figuring out just what she and her friends are planning—or if she is really a part of the group or just another dupe.
The Last Policeman won an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Origina as a mystery in 2012; Countdown City won the Philip K. Dick Award for science fiction for 2014. Both are richly deserved.
Keep your eyes open for World of Trouble, coming out in July of this year.
The Last Policeman Published January 1st 2012
Countdown City Published July 16, 2013
World of Trouble Upcoming; expected date of publication July 15, 2014
Published July 16th, 2013 by Quirk Books
ISBN 1594746265 (ISBN13: 9