It's March 20, 2012. Next October 3, less than six months from now, the 6.5 km asteroid called Maia will collide with Earth. The stark announcement, made last year by shaken and tearful scientists, was watched on television by hundreds of millions worldwide. By early April, astronomers will be able to pinpoint its impact site. Over half of the world’s population will be killed in the event and its immediate aftermath. Those who survive the ensuing months of tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, riots, and disease will face decades or centuries of cold, dark night and slow starvation before the skies clear.
One March morning, newly promoted Detective Henry Palace of the Concord, New Hampshire, police department is called to the site of an another suicide. Peter Anthony Zell, a 38-year-old insurance actuary, appears to have hanged himself with a belt in the restroom of a MacDonald’s restaurant. There have been so many suicides by hanging in Concord recently that it has been nicknamed "Hangertown." A couple of odd elements make Henry dissatisfied with this as suicide, so he investigates it as a murder, using the dwindling and increasingly unreliable resources available to him. Cell phones work only sometimes; so few people are bothering to pay their bills that companies have neither money nor staff to repair damaged infrastructure. The insurance company that employed the victim had gone back to paper because of the unreliability of the internet, and the records that Zell had been working on are inexplicably missing.
|Any light at the end of this tunnel?|
This procedural is the first in a projected trilogy. There were a number of societal elements not addressed here; survivalists, food looting and riots, and the wholesale murder and mayhem I would have expected in the circumstances. These issues may arise after the impact site is known; there's not much use planning for the long term if you know you won't survive the first 10 minutes. Despite the relative weakness of the mystery itself, I am definitely hooked on this eerily plausible pre-apocalyptic setting, and look forward to the next book in the series.
Note: I was given a free review copy of The Last Policeman, which will be released by Random House on July 10, 2012. A version of this review may appear on Amazon and GoodReads, under my user names there.