Countdown City – The Last Policeman Book II by Ben H Winters

Countdown CityThe Last Policeman introduced us to Hank Palace, a Detective in the Concord, New Hampshire police department, a man finally achieving his dream role as a police detective just as the end of the world begins. Asteroid 2011GV1 is on an inexorable path towards Earth – and when it hits, everything is over…

As Countdown City begins, 2011GV1 is 77 days away, and Hank no longer has his badge. Still smarting from the events of the first book, his lack of an official job doesn’t stop him promising to help the woman who used to babysit him – her husband has disappeared without trace.

Of course in a world without internet, without mobile phones and with a vast proportion of the population deciding to go “bucket listing”, disappearing without trace isn’t particularly difficult. But Hank, for whatever reasons, takes the case, little dreaming where his journey will lead him. While the human race may have 77 days left, there’s every chance that Hank may not make it to the finish line…

The Last Policeman was one of the memorable books that I read last year, and when Quirkus Press offered me the chance of an extra-early review copy of Countdown City, I couldn’t reply fast enough. And when it arrived through the letter-box the other day, I tore through the book that I was reading so that I could start part two of the trilogy.

I know – it’s only a trilogy. Obviously, a story about the encroaching end of the world has to have a finish point, and it’s to Ben H Winters’ credit that he has made it clear that the end of both the world and the story is going to happen. It’s a real shame in the sense that this terrific series will have such a short life, but as it so far has produced two simply outstanding books, it has to be applauded. Oops, given away the end of the review – yes, I absolutely loved this book too.

Everything I praised about the first book applies equally here – Winters produces a believable picture of the slow end of civilisation – things are getting worse as resources are running low. As one character observes, “wait until the water runs out. Then you’ll see some [EXPLETIVE] bad guys.” Everything has been carefully thought out, from the pocket communities surviving however they can to some horrific but understandable crimes that would never be committed in our non-doomed world.

As with the previous review, I’ll say nothing about the plot, as you will want to let the story unfold around you as you read it. It’s worth pointing out that while this serves as, with every part two of a trilogy, as a set-up for the finale, it possesses none of the weaknesses that often occur in such a tale. This is a strong story in its own right, but I’m now desperate for part three.

So, how do I classify this? Apocalyptic noir? That’ll have to do. The finest, and possibly only, example of apocalyptic noir. Not just highly recommended – this is essential reading for any fan of crime fiction, or, indeed, of books in general.


Sorry, but it’s not out until July 16th, either in the UK or the USA. So in the meantime, go and read The Last Policeman. It’s available this month for a pittance as an ebook. And then start counting the days… in more ways that one.


  1. This review was so close to simply being a constant repetition of “I’ve read this already and you probably haven’t. Ha Ha!” I didn’t realise how much I was looking forward to it until it arrived – now I’m baffled as to why I didn’t make The Last Policeman the book of the year for 2012.

    Probably because I’m an idiot…


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