Ben H Winters
Completed 4/15/2015, Reviewed 4/21/2015
“Countdown City” is the second book in Winters’ “The Last Policeman” trilogy. It’s another mystery featuring Henry Palace, the former Concord detective who is still investigating cases even though the world is about to end. In this book, the asteroid is only 77 days from colliding with the Earth, and Palace’s case involves the missing husband of his nanny from childhood. People are still running away on bucket-list adventures, hopelessly committing suicide, hording stashes of food and ammunition. The economy has collapsed, electricity is out, and running water is coming close to shutting down. But Palace still has an insane commitment to getting the job done, even though the old police force has been disbanded and the town is being protected, barely, by scary federal police.
While I liked the first book, I found this one much more engaging. I haven’t been able to place why exactly. I think the primary reason is that the science fiction aspect is coming more to the forefront. The world’s population is much more desperate with the end getting nearer. Now that scientists have deciphered that the asteroid will hit the Indonesia region, hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing that hemisphere and trying to enter the US. Scam artists are selling living space bunker communities, guaranteed to save you from the apocalypse. And terrible acts of violence are being committed despite the special police force. It made post-nuclear Florida in “Alas, Babylon” look like a cakewalk.
I think I’ve come to like the main character as well. It may simply be because Palace has a backstory and feels familiar now. It makes his stoic persistence more endearing. I expect it of him. There’s one great scene where he and his sister bicycle to the new Free Republic, the recently seceded University of New Hampshire, trying to follow a lead on his missing person’s case. Before entering the campus, Palace changes into a suit, just like a detective would, oblivious that he would stick out like a sore thumb on a college campus turned revolutionary new society. That’s just Palace.
This is short review, but it’s a straight forward book. It’s fun and suspenseful and it drew me into wondering what would happen to society if such a disaster was imminent. My own imagination on this frightened me a bit. But I’m quite looking forward to seeing what Winters comes up with in the last book. I still give it three stars out of five, though it’s better than its predecessor, but not quite a four star. If I used half stars, I’d use one here. I don’t, so it stays a three. Read it. It’s quick and leaves you wanting more.