Title – Countdown City (The Last Policeman #2)
Author – Ben H. Winters
In seventy-seven days, the asteroid 2011GV1 is going to slam into the planet Earth and destroy all life on it. It will be a catastrophe on par with the impact that ended the reign of the dinosaurs. All humanity knows it is coming and they know just as well that there is nothing they can do about it. Many have chosen to deal with this impending doom in different ways. Some have decided to end their own lives rather than wait out the day. Others have gone on extensive trips, fulfilling bucket lists they had put off to another time and now there is no more time.
But for forcibly retired Police Detective Henry Palace, he does the only thing he can. The only thing he knows to do. He stays on the job and today, seventy-seven days away from the apocalypse, he has a new case to work.
Martha Milano babysat Henry and his sister Nico when they were kids. Now they are all grown up and Martha’s husband Brett has gone missing. Martha is sure there is more to it than Brett running away in the face of the end of times. She is positive he wouldn’t do that. No something else has happened and she needs Henry to look into to it. To find and bring her husband back home. The police will be no help. They have been replaced with young kids who simply are there to provide a presence. No one investigates. Henry is sure that the databases are even working. But still he agrees to find Brett.
“…My missing person was a man dying to leave, in a fever to leave, but who knew that leaving was wrong. He made a compromise with himself, struck a moral balance, did what he had to, to make arrangements for the woman he’d be leaving behind…”
Henry follows Brett to a pizza parlor and through the dark street to a hideout for one of the few remaining criminal enterprises. All the while knowing that Brett had left Martha. But why? Brett was an ex-cop and what Henry was sensing was that Brett wasn’t running from something, he was running to something.
The mystery deepens as Henry must work through the remaining camps of humanity that live outside the city. Survivalists and communes. Both thinking that the government is lying to them all and that there is no end of the world. Conspiracy nuts who are sure this is all a Government cover-up. All to find one missing man and bring him home. So that he can die with his wife, when the seventy-seventh die finally arrives.
Countdown City is an excellent sequel to The Last Policeman. Henry Palace is such a well written character that his drive to do the right thing in the face of such over whelming helplessness just endears him the readers even more.
The story is well plotted and though it is a desperate situation, the novel never gets bogged down in the setting and hopelessness. Even besides the impending doom, there is a real mystery here. Where is Brett? Why did he leave? What is he doing and are the rants and ravings of the communes and conspiracy nuts hold any validity? What is Henry going to tell Brett when he finds him? Excuse me but your wife would like you to come home now so you can die together.
Countdown City is well written mystery and if Henry Palace is the Last Policeman then perhaps there is some hope left. At least until the asteroid hits and the planet overheats and everything dies and then well it all kind of sucks after that. But until then, it looks like there is one more book coming with Henry Palace to be read!
A very good read!