The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters
With the latest climate change report out, we’re not sure whether this will lead to a boost in the sales of apocalyptic fiction or a downturn. If you’re in the mood for some beautiful meditations on the meaning of life and work against a background of a fading earth, you probably thought you couldn’t do better than the Nevil Shute’s 1957 post-apocalyptic classic On the Beach. And it was hard to beat for decades. While we still recommend it, the genre has become a magnet for talented, literary fiction writers—you’ll find the “Best of” lists each year always have a couple of novels that fall into this category (we covered American War in our Summer 2018 list).
Ben Winters’ trilogy, The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble, starts as your basic detective novel. Our hero, newly promoted to detective in light of a spate of recent resignations and departmental suicides, thinks something is fishy about this particular suicide. Concord, New Hampshire—like everywhere else—has been impacted by the news of earth’s impending demise. An asteroid, Maia, is on track to hit in October and wipe out all life. So, technically, this trilogy is pre-apocalyptic, if you usually just can’t face life after the fall.
If you’re only going to have one case, it’s important to find out the truth. Like all noir detectives, Hank isn’t looking for an answer that’s going to bring anyone peace, but the work itself has honor and meaning, while it doesn’t look like anyone else’s approach to the end of the world has much to recommend itself. This is a beautiful series of books, written by a talented writer, and like many in the genre, is a reminder of what really matters about our work.