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Countdown City

Countdown City

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Countdown City

3/5 (363 valutazioni)
315 pagine
4 ore
Jul 16, 2013


“A genre-defying blend of crime writing and science fiction.”—Alexandra Alter, The New York Times

Detective Hank Palace returns in the second in the speculative mystery trilogy set on the brink of the apocalypse and winner of the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award.

There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over...until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.

Countdown City presents another fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse--and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond "whodunit." What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?
Jul 16, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

Ben H. Winters is an author and educator who has written plays and musicals for children and adults, as well as several books in the bestselling Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide series. He is also the author of The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, Bedbugs, and the parody novels Android Karenina and the bestselling Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. He lives in Indianapolis.

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Countdown City - Ben H. Winters



"It’s just that he promised, says Martha Milano, pale eyes flashing, cheeks flushed with anxiety. Grieving, bewildered, desperate. We both did. We promised each other like a million times."

Right, I say. Of course.

I pluck a tissue from the box on her kitchen table and Martha takes it, smiles weakly, blows her nose. I’m sorry, she says, and honks again, and then she gathers herself, just a little, sits up straight and takes a breath. But so Henry, you’re a policeman.

I was.

Right. You were. But, I mean, is there …

She can’t finish, but she doesn’t need to. I understand the question and it floats there in the air between us and slowly revolves: Is there anything you can do? And of course I’m dying to help her, but frankly I’m not sure whether there is anything that I can do, and it’s hard, it’s impossible, really, to know what to say. For the last hour I’ve just been sitting here and listening, taking down the information in my slim blue exam-taker’s notebook. Martha’s missing husband is Brett Cavatone; age thirty-three; last seen at a restaurant called Rocky’s Rock ’n’ Bowl, on Old Loudon Road, out by the Steeplegate Mall. It’s her father’s place, Martha explained, a family-friendly pizza-joint-slash-bowling-alley, still open despite everything, though with a drastically reduced menu. Brett has worked there, her father’s right-hand man, for two years. Yesterday morning, about 8:45, he left to do some errands and never came back.

I read over these scant notes one more time in the worried silence of Martha’s neat and sunlit kitchen. Officially her name is Martha Cavatone, but to me she will always be Martha Milano, the fifteen-year-old kid who watched my sister Nico and me after school, five days a week, until my mom got home, gave her ten bucks in an envelope, and asked after her folks. It’s unmooring to see her as an adult, let alone one overturned by the emotional catastrophe of having been abandoned by her husband. How much stranger it must be for her to be turning to me, of all people, whom she last laid eyes on when I was twelve. She blows her nose again, and I give her a small gentle smile. Martha Milano with the overstuffed purple JanSport backpack, the Pearl Jam T-shirt. Cherry-pink bubblegum and cinnamon lip gloss.

She wears no makeup now. Her hair is an unruly brown pile; her eyes are red rimmed from crying; she’s gnawing vigorously on the nail of her thumb.

Disgusting, right? she says, catching me looking. But I’ve been smoking like crazy since April, and Brett never says anything even though I know it grosses him out. I have this stupid feeling, like, if I stop now, it’ll bring him home. I’m sorry, Henry, did you— She stands abruptly. Do you want tea or something?

No, thank you.


No. It’s okay, Martha. Sit down.

She falls back into the chair, stares at the ceiling. What I want of course is coffee, but thanks to whatever byzantine chain of infra-structural disintegration is determining the relative availability of various perishable items, coffee cannot be found. I close my notebook and look Martha in the eye.

It’s tough, I say slowly, it really is. There are just a lot of reasons why a missing-persons investigation is especially challenging in the current environment.

Yeah. No. She blinks her eyes, closed and then open again. I mean, of course. I know.

Dozens of reasons, really. Hundreds. There is no way to put out a description on the wires, to issue an APB or post to the FBI Kidnappings and Missing Persons List. Witnesses who might know the location of a missing individual have very little interest or incentive to divulge that information, if they haven’t gone missing themselves. There is no way to access federal or local databases. As of last Friday, in fact, southern New Hampshire appears to have no electricity whatsoever. Plus of course I’m not a policeman anymore, and even if I was, the CPD as a matter of policy is no longer pursuing such cases. All of which makes finding one particular individual a long shot, is what I tell Martha. Especially—and here I pause, load my voice with as much care and sensitivity as I can—especially since many such people left on purpose.

Yeah, she says flatly. Of course.

Martha knows all of this. Everybody knows. The world is on the move. Plenty still leaving in droves on their Bucket List adventures, going off to snorkel or skydive or make love to strangers in public parks. And now, more recently, whole new forms of abrupt departure, new species of madness as we approach the end. Religious sects wandering New England in robes, competing for converts: the Doomsday Mormons, the Satellites of God. The mercy cruisers, traveling the deserted highways in buses with converted engines running on wood gas or coal, seeking opportunities for Samaritanship. And of course the preppers, down in their basements, hoarding what they can, building piles for the aftermath, as if any amount of preparation will suffice.

I stand up, close my notebook. Change the subject. How is your block?

It’s fine, says Martha. I guess.

There’s an active residents association?

Yes. She nods blankly, not interested in the line of questioning, not ready to contemplate how things will be for her alone.

And let me ask, hypothetically, if there were a firearm in the home …

There is, she begins. Brett left his—

I hold up one hand, cut her off. Hypothetically. Would you know how to use it?

Yes, she says. I can shoot. Yes.

I nod. Fine. All I needed to hear. Private ownership or sale of firearms is technically forbidden, although the brief wave of house-to-house searches ended months ago. Obviously I’m not going to bike over to School Street and report that Martha Cavatone has her husband’s service piece under the bed—get her sent away for the duration—but neither do I need to hear any details.

Martha murmurs excuse me and gets up, jerks open the pantry door and reaches for a tottering pile of cigarette cartons. But then she stops herself, slams the door, and spins around to press her fingers into her eyes. It’s almost comical, it’s such a teenage set of gestures: the impetuous grab for comfort, the immediate and disgusted self-abnegation. I remember standing in our front hallway, at seven or eight years old, just after Martha went home in the evenings, trying to catch one last sniff of cinnamon and bubblegum.

Okay, so, Martha, what I can do is go by the restaurant, I say—I hear myself saying—and ask a few questions. And as soon as the words are out she’s across the room, hugging me around the neck, grinning into my chest, like it’s a done deal, like I’ve already brought her husband home and he’s out there on the stoop, ready to come in.

Oh, thank you, she says. "Thank you, Henry."

Listen, wait—wait, Martha.

I gently pry her arms from around my neck, step back and plant her in front of me, summon the stern hardheaded spirit of my grandfather, level Martha with his severe stare. I will do what I can to find your husband, okay?

Okay, she says, breathless. You promise?

Yes. I nod. I can’t promise that I will find him, and I definitely can’t promise that I will bring him home. But I’ll do what I can.

Of course, she says, I understand, and she’s beaming, hugging me again, my notes of caution sliding unheard off her cheeks. I can’t help it, I’m smiling, too, Martha Milano is hugging me and I’m smiling.

I’ll pay you, of course, she says.

No, you won’t.

"No, I know, not with money money, but we can figure out something …"

Martha, no. I won’t take anything from you. Let’s have a look around, okay?

Okay, she says, wiping the last of the tears from her eyes.

* * *

Martha finds me a recent picture of her husband, a nice full-body snapshot from a fishing trip a couple years back. I study him, Brett Cavatone, a short man with a broad powerful frame, standing at the bank of a stream in the classic pose, holding aloft a dripping wide-mouth bass, man and fish staring into the camera with the same skeptical and somber expression. Brett has a black beard, thick and untrimmed, but the hair on his head is neat and short, a crew cut only slightly grown out.

Was your husband in the military, Martha?

No, she says, he was a cop. Like you. But not Concord. The state force.

A trooper?

Yes. Martha takes the picture from me, gazes at it proudly.

Why did he leave the force?

Oh, you know. Tired of it. Ready for a change. And my dad was starting this restaurant. So, I don’t know.

She murmurs these fragments—tired of it, ready for a change—as if they require no further explanation, like the idea of leaving law enforcement voluntarily makes self-evident sense. I take the photograph back and slip it into my pocket, thinking of my own brief career: patrolman for fifteen months, detective on Adult Crimes for four months, forcibly retired along with my colleagues on March twenty-eighth of this year.

We walk around the house together. I’m peering into the closets, opening Brett’s drawers, finding nothing interesting, nothing remarkable: a flashlight, some paperbacks, a dozen ounces of gold. Brett’s closet and dresser drawers are still full of clothes, which in normal circumstances would suggest foul play rather than intentional abandonment, but there is no longer any such thing as normal circumstances. At lunch yesterday, McGully told us a story he heard, where the husband and wife were out for a walk in White Park, and the woman just runs, literally runs, leaps over a hedge and disappears into the distance.

She said, ‘Can you hold my ice cream a sec?’  McGully said, laughing, bellowing, pounding the table. Poor dummy standing there with two ice creams.

The Cavatones’ bedroom furniture is handsome and sturdy and plain. On Martha’s night table is a hot-pink journal with a small brass lock, like a child’s diary, and when I lift it I get just the lightest scent of cinnamon. Perfect. I smile. On the opposite night table, Brett’s, is a miniature chess board, pieces arranged midgame; her husband, Martha tells me with another fond smile, plays against himself. Hung above the dresser is a small tasteful painting of Christ crucified. On the wall of the bathroom, next to the mirror, is a slogan in neat all-capital block letters: IF YOU ARE WHAT YOU SHOULD BE, YOU WILL SET THE WORLD ABLAZE!

Saint Catherine, says Martha, appearing beside me in the mirror, tracing the words with her forefinger. Isn’t it beautiful?

We go back downstairs and sit facing each other on a tidy brown sofa in the living room. There’s a column of dead bolts along the front door and rows of iron bars on the windows. I flip open my notebook and gather a few more details: what time her husband left for work yesterday, what time her father came by, said have you seen Brett? and they realized that he was gone.

This may seem like an obvious question, I say, when I’m done writing down her answers. But what do you think he might be doing?

Martha worries at the nail of her pinky. "I’ve thought about it so much, believe me. I mean, it sounds silly, but something good. He wouldn’t be off bungee jumping or shooting heroin or whatever. My mind flashes on Peter Zell, the last poor soul I went in search of, while Martha continues. If he really left, if he’s not …"

I nod. If he’s not dead. Because that possibility, too, hovers over us. A lot of missing people are missing because they’re dead.

"He’d be doing something, like, noble, Martha concludes. Something he thought was noble."

I smooth the edges of my mustache. Something noble. A powerful thing to think about one’s husband, especially one who’s just disappeared without explanation. A pink bead of blood has appeared at the edge of her fingernail.

And you don’t feel it’s possible—

No, says Martha. No women. No way. She shakes her head, adamant. Not Brett.

I don’t press it; I move on. She tells me that he was getting around on a black ten-speed bicycle; she tells me no, he didn’t have any regular activities outside of work and home. I ask her if there’s anything else she needs to tell me about her husband or her marriage, and she says no: He was here, they had a plan, and then he went away.

Now all that’s left is the million-dollar question. Because even if I do track him down—which I almost certainly will not be able to do—it remains the case that abandoning one’s spouse is not illegal and never has been, and of course I have no power at this point to compel anyone to do anything. I’m unsure exactly how to explain any of this to Martha Milano, and I suspect she knows it anyway, so I just go ahead and say it:

What do you want me to do if I find him?

She doesn’t answer at first, but leans across the sofa and stares deeply, almost romantically, into my eyes. Tell him he has to come home. Tell him his salvation depends on it.

His … salvation?

Will you tell him that, Henry? His salvation.

I murmur something, I don’t know what, and look down at my notebook, vaguely embarrassed. The faith and fervency are new; they weren’t an aspect of Martha Milano when we were young. It’s not just that she loves this man and misses him; she believes that he has sinned by abandoning her and will suffer for it in the world to come. Which is coming, of course, a lot sooner than it used to be.

I tell Martha I’ll be back soon if I have any news and where she can find me, in the meantime, if she needs to.

As we stand up, her expression changes.

Jeez, I’m sorry, I’m such a—I’m sorry. Henry, how’s your sister doing?

I don’t know, I say.

I’m already at the door, I’m working my way through the series of dead bolts and chains.

You don’t know?

I’ll be in touch, Martha. I’ll let you know what I can find.

* * *

The current environment. That’s what I said to Martha: A missing-person investigation is especially challenging in the current environment. I sigh, now, at the pale inadequacy of the euphemism. Even now, fourteen months since the first scattered disbelieving sightings, seven months after the odds of impact rose to one hundred percent, nobody knows what to call it. The situation, some people say, or what’s going on. This craziness. On October third, seventy-seven days from today, the asteroid 2011GV1, 6.5 kilometers in diameter, will plow into planet Earth and destroy us all. The current environment.

I trot briskly down the stairs of the Cavatones’ porch in the sunlight and unchain my bike from their charming cement birdbath. Their lawn is the only one mowed on the street. It’s a beautiful day today, hot but not too hot, clear blue sky, drifting white clouds. Pure uncomplicated summertime. On the street there are no cars, no sound of cars.

I snap on my helmet and take my bike slowly down the street, right on Bradley, east toward Loudon Bridge, heading in the direction of Steeplegate Mall. A police car is parked at the end of Church with an officer in the driver’s seat, a young man sitting upright in black wraparound shades. I nod hello and he nods back, slow, impassive. There’s a second cop car at Main and Pearl, this one with a driver I slightly recognize, although his wave in return to mine is cursory at best, quick and unsmiling. He’s one of the legions of inexperienced young patrol officers who swelled the ranks of the CPD in the weeks before its abrupt reorganization under the federal Department of Justice—the same reorganization that dissolved the Adult Crimes Unit and the rest of the detective divisions. I don’t get the memos anymore, of course, but the current operating strategy appears to be one of overwhelming presence: no investigations, no neighborhood policing, just a cop on every corner, rapid response to any whiff of public disturbance, as with the recent events on Independence Day.

If I were still on the force, it would be General Order 44-2 that would be relevant to Martha’s case. I can call up the form in my mind, practically see it: Part I, procedures; Part VI, Unusual Circumstances. Additional investigative steps.

There’s a guy at Main and Court, dirty beard and no shirt, whirling in circles and punching the air, earbuds in place, though I’d be willing to bet there’s no music coming out of them. I raise my hand from my handlebars and the bearded man waves back then pauses, looks down, adjusting the nonexistent volume. Once I’m over the bridge I make a small detour, weave over to Quincy Street and the elementary school. I chain my bike to the fence surrounding the playing field, take off my helmet and scan the recess yard. It’s the height of summer but there’s a small army of kids hanging out here, as there has been all day, every day, playing four-square and hopscotch, chasing one another across the weeds of the soccer field, urinating against the wall of the deserted brick schoolhouse. Many spend the night here too, camping out on their beach towels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars bed sheets.

Micah Rose is sitting on a bench on the outskirts of the playground, his legs drawn up and hugged to his chest. He’s eight. His sister Alyssa is six, and she’s pacing back and forth in front of him. I take the pair of eyeglasses I’ve been carrying in my coat pocket and hand them to Alyssa, who claps her hands delightedly.

You fixed them.

Not me personally, I say, eyeing Micah, who is looking stonily at the ground. I know a guy. I tilt my head toward the bench. What’s wrong with my man?

Micah looks up and scowls warningly at his sister. Alyssa looks away. She’s wearing a sleeveless jean jacket I gave her a couple weeks ago, two sizes too big, with a Social Distortion patch sewn on the back. It belonged to Nico, my own sister, many years ago.

Come on, guys, I say, and Alyssa glances one last time at Micah and launches in: Some big kids from St. Alban’s were here and they were being all crazy and pushing and stuff, and they took things.

"Shut up, says Micah. Alyssa looks back and forth from him to me and almost cries, but then keeps it together. They took Micah’s sword."

Sword? I say. Huh.

Their father is a feckless character named Johnson Rose, whom I went to high school with, and who I happen to know went Bucket List very early on. The mother, unless I got the story wrong, subsequently overdosed on vodka and pain pills. A lot of the kids spending their days out here have similar stories. There’s one, Andy Blackstone—I see him right now, bouncing a big rubber medicine ball against the school—who was being raised, for one reason or another, by an uncle. When the odds rose to a hundred percent, the uncle apparently just told him to get the fuck out.

A little more gentle prodding of Alyssa and Micah, and it emerges, to my relief, that what has been lost is a toy—a plastic samurai sword that once upon a time came with a ninja costume, but which Micah had been wearing at his belt for some weeks.

Okay, I say, squeezing Alyssa’s shoulder and turning to look at Micah in the eye. It’s not a big deal.

It just sucks, says Micah emphatically. It sucks.

I know that.

I flip past the details on Brett Cavatone to the back of my notebook, where I’ve got certain small tasks laid out for myself. I cross out A’s glasses and pencil in samurai sword with a couple of question marks beside it. As I straighten awkwardly out of my squat, Andy Blackstone bounces the medicine ball my way, and I turn just in time for it to sproing up off the pavement and hit my outstretched palms with a satisfying, stinging whap.

Hey, Palace, hollers Blackstone. Play some kickball?

Rain check, I say, winking at Alyssa and clipping my helmet back on. I’ve got a case I’m working on.


Rocky’s Rock ’n’ Bowl turns out to be a great big brick building with black-glass windows and a hokey sign above the door—musical notes and a smiling cartoon family munching on pizza. Rocky’s sits just past the abandoned husk of Steeplegate Mall, and to get there you’ve got to go through the vast mall parking lot, through a small obstacle course of garbage cans, overturned and spilling out, and abandoned vehicles, their hoods popped by thieves to dig out the engines. In front of the doors of the restaurant, sitting atop an empty newspaper box like statuary, is a young guy, twenty maybe, twenty-one, a stubbly uneven teenager’s beard and a short ponytail, who calls out how you doin’? as I approach.

Just fine, I say, mopping my sweaty brow with a handkerchief. The kid hops down from the newspaper box and sidles up to meet me, nice and easy, his hands jammed in the pockets of his light jacket. A criminal’s trick—you don’t know if he’s got a gun or not.

Nice suit, man, he says. Help you find something?

I’m looking for the pizza place, I say, pointing behind him.

Sure. Sorry, what’s your name?

Henry, I say. Palace.

How’d you hear about us?

Lots of questions, rat-a-tat, not to get the answers but to get a read: How nervous is this guy? What does he want? But he’s nervous himself, eyes slipping warily side to side, and I talk slow and calm, keep my hands where he can see them.

I know the owner’s daughter.

Oh, no kidding? he says. And what’s her name again?


Martha, he says, like he’d forgotten it and needed reminding. Totally.

Satisfied, the kid takes an exaggerated step backward to push open the door. Heya, Rocky, he calls. A blast of music and warm smells from the darkness within. A friend of Martha’s. And then, to me, as I walk past, Sorry about the hassle. Can’t be too cautious these days, know what I’m saying?

I nod politely, wondering what he’s got hidden up in the jacket, what means are tucked away to welcome a visitor without the right answers: a switchblade, a crowbar, a snub-nose

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  • (4/5)
    Rating: 4* of fiveThe Publisher Says: There are just 77 days to go before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Hank Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over...until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband. Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace – an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees. The second novel in the critically acclaimed Last Policeman trilogy, Countdown City presents a fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse – and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond "whodunit." What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?My Review: This book has a helluva gut-punch in it. It has a gigantic eye-opening take on what catastrophe brings out...the apocalypse before the holocaust has surprising actors on its ever-darkening stage.It gave my poor roommate a sleepless night or two as my light stayed on way past his comfort zone. Sorry, dude, there's books to be read!I think, though I'm not sure, that one big reason our detective is developing and making his exit meaningful for as many as possible is that this series is a trilogy. The motivating factor being the annihilation of the planet and its people automatically limits the time available for anyone to act! It also allows Winters to load us up with telling details without making it feel like force-feeding a goose for a richer liver.A point I'm appreciating more as the series goes on is the author's use of astronomical coordinates for the asteroid. It isn't something I saw right away, but it has slowly become a drumbeat of worry behind the plentiful action in the book. I particularly like the fact that, even though it's there from the beginning, its effect is cumulative. Sneakily so.Off to book three!
  • (3/5)
    When Detective Henry Palace returns in this second volume of The Last Policeman Trilogy, there are only 77 days left until the asteroid is due to hit Earth. Henry is no longer employed by the police department, and the few police who are left take a pretty laissez faire attitude in a society where money has no value, and shortages of necessary goods and services prevail.Henry's old babysitter turns up one day seeking his help in finding her husband Brett, who has disappeared. She is sure that he would never "go bucketlist" or otherwise desert her to face the end alone, and fears he has come to some harm. Although hundreds of people are disappearing everyday (including many who commit suicide), Henry believes her and takes the case.What was more interesting than the mystery to be solved (as was also the case for me with the first volume) is the creation of the world at the end--the reflections on what it means to face the end of the world. As Henry searches for Brett we experience with him the difficulties of retaining his humanity when all around people are losing theirs.I guess I'm going to have to read the final volume to see if the world really does end.3 stars
  • (5/5)
    When I read The Last Policeman earlier this year I thought it was terrific and I wanted to read the rest of the series. But I also wondered if the next books would be as good as the first. I can answer that question now with a definite yes. It looks like there is a third book, World of Trouble. I'll be looking for it.An asteroid is hurtling through space on a collision course with Earth. It is due to hit the Eastern Hemisphere in October. Even if all human life is not killed by the collision most of the survivors will die from hunger or thirst or cold. With less than six months to live many people walked away from their jobs, their houses, their responsibilities determined to enjoy their remaining time. But Henry Palace, former police detective, is determined to carry on with his responsibilities even though he has been fired from his job on the police force. When the woman who was his babysitter asks for his help to find her husband, Henry cannot say no. Brett Milano went out to find supplies for the pizza place owned by his father-in-law at ten o'clock one morning and never returned. His wife, Martha, is dumbfounded because Brett had promised he would stick it out with her until the end. Henry follows the clues trying to find Brett. At one point he has to ask his sister, Nico, for help. Nico is involved with some cult that thinks they can destroy the asteroid. She has contacts that Henry needs and the two of them team up for a while. In fact, Nico saves Henry's life but then she disappears. Henry has an answer for Martha but now Martha is missing. And the town they live in is sliding into anarchy since the water went out. What does a man who feels strongly about honouring his commitments do when he might not survive the night? Read the book to find out.This book raises big questions and will leave you thinking about them long after the book is finished. For me that is the mark of great writing.
  • (5/5)
    I love the premise of this series. An asteroid is about to crash into Earth, destroying everyone... but Detective Henry Palace wants to keep on solving ordinary murders and missing person cases.

    In the end, you get a compelling mystery that would work as a novel in its own right, surrounded by an equally gripping per-apocalyptic atmosphere, all injected with a healthy dose of conspiracy theory!

    Countdown City reminded me what I loved about The Last Policeman, and I think Winters' writing is even stronger in this second book. Looking forward to the next one!
  • (4/5)
    COUNTDOWN CITYTHE LAST POLICEMAN BOOK IIBy Ben H. WintersHaving not read volume 1 of this trilogy I was concerned that it might be a difficult journey.Glad to report this was no problem. Ben Winters knows how to spin a tale and keep his readers engaged. The set up for The Last Policeman series is a good one: a giant asteroid is hurling towards earth with certain destruction on a global scale.Societal norms and order come up against the basic survival mode that lives within all of us. Faced with exstinction do people come together or fight for their own good. This dilemma plays out in Countdown City as Detective Hank Palace searches for a lost person.No longer an active member of the police force, Palace absurdly lives his life as if he were. Once a detective always a detective. Faced with chaos he finds comfort in being of service to others and to the rule of law and order.Yet the immensity of the looming disaster shatters all semblance of order. As Hank searches through Massachusetts and New Hampshire he meets up with young revolutionaries, much like those who occupied Wall Street, anarchists dedicated to democratic ideals trying to form a large commune that will survive the disaster and point to a new civilization. Hank’s sister, Nico, is a part of this effort and though they now live in different worlds their love and devotion to one another is also a theme of the book that endures.In the end, this is a suspense thriller that is easy to read and unique in its setting. It is a satisfying read and one that results in wanting to go back to read volume 1 and wait for the final volume 3.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second in a trilogy of books following Henry Palace, a former Concord, NH police officer who, along with the rest of the world, is awaiting an asteroid scheduled to slam into Earth in 77 days. Though no longer attached tot he police force, Henry can't refuse an old friend's plea to locate her husband who has disappeared. As in the first book, The Last Policeman, Winters explores questions of what it means to do right when there are no consequences for doing wrong, what constitutes "civilized" behavior as the end of civilization looms, and what are our obligations to each other even as the world is ending.
  • (4/5)
    Looking back, I see that I gave Winters' last book in this series 3-1/2 stars, just as I did Countdown City. But this was the better book. Detective work near the end of the world has got to be more difficult than the way ex-detective Hank Palace leaps from clue to clue. Every lead pans out; there are no dead ends, no inaccurate suppositions. That helps the story flow, however. Palace is trying to trace a missing husband, perhaps gone to check some items off his bucket list. Lots of people are doing just that as the asteroid that will smash the earth in a couple of months approaches. Hank has some evidence that his prey is aiming higher than a bucket list, and manages to find him with relative ease. Then things get ugly.Shot and near death, Hank is miraculously survives to put the pieces together for the reader. As civilization further deteriorates, he finds himself with a group of people who have adequately prepared to face the final days together. Two weeks from impact, Winters sets up the next installment of the series. It seems only if one of the 'conspiracy theories' is true can there be a fourth book. I wouldn't be surprised.
  • (4/5)
    In this follow-up to The Last Policemen, there are only 77 days remaining until an asteroid collides with the Earth; Hank Palace has been let go from the Concord police force, but that doesn't stop him from taking on a missing persons case and following it to the end with his dogged single-mindedness.I actually enjoyed the sequel more than the first book in the trilogy, which is a rarity. In The Last Policeman, Winters is just establishing his unusual premise of a police procedural set during humanity's final days. People are only beginning to accept the reality of the meteor that will impact the Earth, and while there are some suicides and some people going "bucket list," society is holding together, more or less. Now the clock is ticking down, and everything is starting to come unraveled. The police force has been reduced to thugs on the street, most businesses have shut down, the power is off, and violence has become commonplace. Even though Palace doesn't have a job, he still takes on a case, finding his former babysitter's missing husband. He pursues the clues obsessively for no good reason, other than it keeps his mind off what's coming and gives him something to do.The case leads him back to his estranged sister, who has become part of an underground group hatching a plot to deflect the meteor, and from her to a student commune-utopia established on the University of New Hampshire campus, one of the most entertaining sections of the book. I won't reveal any more, except to say that as the mystery unravels, civilization is also falling apart all around Palace, until he has no choice but to acknowledge the reality of what's happening.I really liked the ending of Countdown City, and the set-up for the final book in the trilogy, which I will definitely be reading. By combining the traditional crime novel with a last-days-on-Earth scenario, Winters has finally offered something new in the apocalyptic sub-genre.Read as a part of a series (2013). Note: This review is based on a book that I received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.
  • (3/5)
    There is some serious middle-book-syndrome and sequel-itis going on with 'Countdown City.'
    'The Last Policeman' was gripping from the first page straight through to the end. I read it in one sitting, and gave it 5 stars.

    'Countdown City' was... ok. It took a while to get going, and even once things started rolling, I just didn't really care about the case. Former detective Hank Palace agrees to help his former babysitter find her missing husband before the end of the world (which is coming, in just a couple of months).

    There is some interesting stuff here about expectations: the missing man was a former state trooper, and seems to be considered by all who knew him to be 'noble' and good. Even without having met him, Hank is illogically eager to assume the best of the man - not only was he a respected law officer, but he won the love of Hank's own childhood crush.

    Hank's investigation proceeds in an interesting-enough manner, with some unexpected twists and turns. I like how the decline of society is pictured, as the day on which an asteroid will impact Earth approaches - but the story just didn't have the urgency for me that the prior book did.

    I also felt like, after spending more time with him, Winters decided he liked his protagonist a lot more. Hank Palace, as portrayed here, seems both less crazy and generally more likable than he did in the first book. I really enjoyed the aspect of The Last Policeman that involved Hank's obsessive-compulsive behavior leading to him causing a swath of destruction and death behind him, regardless of his good intentions. There's only one similar incident in this book, and it'd be a real stretch to call it Palace's fault.

    Overall, it's not a bad book - but it didn't quite live up to my (very high) expectations. (I did, however, like the third book better - I've already read it.)
  • (4/5)
    What would you do if an asteroid was on its way to earth and guaranteed to hit? In a world that's mostly gone haywire, Hank Palace's answer is: business as usual. Formerly a policeman, his former babysitter has asked him for help finding her husband, a man she's sure wouldn't just leave her and go "Bucket List." Will Hank be able to find him in time?This mystery trilogy with a hint of science fiction and conspiracy theories (Hank's sister Nico is part of a group still trying to affect the asteroid) is a fun genreblending read. The setting of Concord, New Hampshire, is familiar New England to me with a touch of difference - martial law, the breakdown of society, that kind of thing. It also gets you wondering... What would I do? "Go Bucket List"? Business as usual? Something in between? And what if it can be stopped - what will that mean for rebuilding a society that's broken down? (Guess I'll have to read the next book to find out!).
  • (4/5)
    The end of the world is coming with a little less than three months until Mia, a giant asteroid, destroys the planet. All around Harry Palace, people are checking out of town, either to finish their bucket list or jump ship by suicide. Crime has taken over with resources dwindling and the police force is severely reduced and barely visible. Although he had been let go from the force, Harry cannot help but commit himself to taking on another case. Harry's childhood crush contacts him about her husband who has gone missing. Desperate to find him before the end of the world, she begs Harry to help her. Harry, as in the first book of the series, thoroughly commits himself to finding the missing husband, and willingly puts himself in harm's way just because he has to figure out what happened. With society collapsing all around him, Harry enlists his paranoid conspiracy-obsessed sister and others to help him along the way. Harry is an enjoyable character who really cares about people and is committed to helping others until his last days on the planet, which are numbered, seriously numbered. This is a quick but suspenseful read for anyone who enjoys apocalyptic fiction with a mystery twist.
  • (2/5)
    Brief but entertaining. As with Book 1, I still felt that the characters were slightly underdeveloped, and that the author would have gone more into discussing the world facing the characters as the asteroid approaches.
  • (4/5)
    I'm just floored again by Henry Palace and the Last Policeman series.It's less than three months until the end of world and Henry Palace has one more case to solve. The husband of childhood friend has gone missing, but so have a lot of people. Why track down this one man? Well, what else is there to do? Palace could go "Bucket List" and find some way to pass the time until the end, but he's not built that way.A beat cop promoted to detective and then retired all because the world was ending, Palace will always be a cop first.This world is haunting and powerful. I can't wait to read book 3, but I don't want to start it because then it will be over much too soon.
  • (4/5)
    I was not sure what to expect from this book but the storyline caught my interest. What would you do if you had a few months before an asteroid would hit and take out the entire planet. Hank Palace is an ex cop down on his luck who is asked to find his old babysitter's missing husband. The first question he gets is why?, the second is what is she paying you? Hank is doing it at first out of a sense of loyalty but then is caught up in an intricate plot. His sister appears to have fallen in with a group that is going to take over and save the planet and only his dog seems to understand what is happening. As he tries his best to find the missing husband and navigate the dangerous waters that once was a peaceful neighborhood he will begin to wonder if the crazies aren't so crazy. Will the world be gone in a few months? The dry wit is very entertaining and I look forward to the next installment - that is if the world doesn't end!
  • (5/5)
    If the world were going to end in a few weeks, 77 days to be precise, what would you do?Run off and do something you always wanted to do like learn to surf or have an affair or see the Pacific Ocean?Or end it yourself before the giant asteroid on it's inevitable path, hurtling toward Earth, has the chance to?Or perhaps, like former police detective Hank Palace, your just try to keep on doing your job.Former job, because in this new, shortly to end world the government doesn't see a role for solving crime. No, the only police left are the para-military, now under the auspices of the Justice Department who are just trying to keep, not too successfully, some degree of public order.But when someone from Hanks past, his former childhood babysitter, comes to him, heartbroken, comes to him, he can not say no. Her husband, who promises to stay by her side until the end, has disappeared and Hank take the job and try and track him down.Perhaps the highest praise I can give this book is for all the entertainment value of a good "whodunnit", I found this book quite disturbing. Yes, parts of it are grim, society breaking down, people attacking others, but not horrible in anyway. No, the scary part is how ordinary, how believable it all is. Food become scarce because no one is working on the farms, driving the truck. No one to come to your aid when someone is breaking into your house, except the gun you hid when the government tried to take them all away to preserve 'order'. No electricity, no phones, but the real fear, and rightfully so, is what will happen when the water from the taps stops flowing.So why does Hank go off on this quest?"Because a promise is a promise...and civilization is just a bunch of promises, that's all it is. A mortgage, a wedding vow, a promise to obey the law, a pledge to endorse it. And now the world is falling apart, the whole rickety world, and every broken promise is a small rock tossed at the wooden side of its tumbling form."Hank will not be the one throwing rocks.This is the second book in the promised Last Policeman trilogy and while I loved the first book, this one is every bit as good. Maybe even a little better because we get a bit more insight into Hank and Hank is the heart and soul of this book. Not that the other characters are not interesting, because they are, from Hank's sister, to his former co-workers, the elderly waitress at the diner they frequented, to the Utopian seeking mix at the local University of New Hampshire.And I loved that two of the rare examples of order involved book lovers. First there are the librarians and volunteers that were keeping the local library open 24/7, a rare safe place among the chaos and second, the small group of university students who had moved into the college library, a pile of books beside them, just reading and reading and reading until the Big One hits. When society collapses, stick with the book lovers. Sounds pretty good to me!This is a book that explores the 'big ideas', but doesn't hit you over the head going it.And then there is Hank's dog, Houdini, happily his companion on his journey riding in a little trailer behind Hank's bike, with the bottles of water, energy bars and some bags of dog food. If the world is going to end, Big Fat Cat Larry I have to tell you I am getting a puppy dog to share the space in the trailer with you. And a Big Pile of Books.
  • (4/5)
    The second in Ben Winters' "Last Policemen" series, with Hank Palace still facing the end of the world and yet still managing to find new ways to get himself into trouble. I liked this one, but as with the first I thought some of the action and the plotting maybe not quite right. But the stage is now set for an epic showdown in the next volume, which I will certainly be sure to pick up when it appears.
  • (5/5)
    First Line: "It's just that he promised," says Martha Milano, pale eyes flashing, cheeks flushed with anxiety.Detective Hank Palace was out of a job until Martha Milano, a woman from Hank's past, asks him to do something. With the Concord, New Hampshire police force being directed by the U.S. Justice Department, solving crime is a thing of the past. With only 77 days until a gigantic asteroid collides with Earth and ends life as we know it, what officers are left on the force are patrolling the streets in an attempt to keep a lid on any potential rioting and violence. No cell phones, no computers, no electricity... and now Martha Milano wants Hank to find the husband who deserted her. Piecing together what clues he can find, Hank visits a college campus run by anarchists, and then makes his way to the coast-- where anti-immigrant militia members are kept busy fighting off the hordes of refugees headed to the U.S.The first book in the Last Policeman trilogy deservedly won the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. Countdown City follows closely in The Last Policeman's footsteps. While the mystery is a good one-- full of twists, turns, and misdirection-- there are two things that lift Countdown City well above the run-of-the-mill whodunit: Ben H. Winters' vision of a world in its last days, and our vision of one lone man refusing to bow down to the inevitable catastrophe.Hank Palace is no fool. He knows what's going to happen in 77 days. But he's still going to be the best person he can be. He's still going to try to protect those closest to him. He's still going to keep any promises that he's made. He's made sure that he's got enough dog food left to last his adopted stray, Houdini, through to the end, and since he has such fond memories of his childhood babysitter, he agrees to search for her husband. Hank's the type of guy you want on your side. Not that he's John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, or Arnold Schwarzenegger-- he's not. But he's a good guy who'll always give 110% (and you don't have to worry about him stealing your last bottle of water when you turn your back).The vision Ben H. Winters has of this nightmare world can chill the blood because so much of it has the ring of truth. In a world where it's rapidly becoming every man for himself, self-proclaimed militia groups would protect "what's ours" by fending off the hundreds and thousands of boats filled with "impact zone" refugees (people who live where the asteroid is going to hit) that are arriving every day. Food, water, drugs, shoes, clothing, even toilet paper would be hoarded and killed for. Millions of people around the world would drop out to accomplish items on their bucket lists. Others would turn to religion, or stick their heads in the sand by joining anti-asteroid conspiracy groups. I'd love to say that Winters has got it wrong, but I've seen too many tweets, too many Facebook status updates, and too much of what passes for news on the internet. Winters doesn't have it wrong.It would be oh-so-easy for the author's canvas to be two-dimensional, but Winters refuses. He refuses by creating a main character like Hank, and he refuses by adding brushstrokes of light and warmth like this one: "The main branch of the Concord Public Library is open twenty-four hours a day at this point, kept clean and lit by a skeleton crew of librarians and a cadre of volunteers."A genuinely good man as hero, a mystery in which many of the people aren't whom they seem to be, a fast pace and plenty of action, refreshing flashes of humor, and a spine-chilling vision of a world fast approaching Armageddon. Ben H. Winters has hit it out of the park again.
  • (5/5)
    The asteroid is coming. It’s getting closer. Only a few more months before it hits. Humanity is changing…You know the end of the world disaster stories where everyone is living normally one day but then the next it’s a race to survive… Or the post-apocalyptic stories where the race to survive moment is over and communities and laws have already formed and a new normal becomes the way of life… well, this book tells a completely different story.It’s not a race to survive. There is no rebuilding or planning for the future – everyone knows they will more than likely die when the asteroid hits – or soon after. There is no hope, for most.Former Detective Hank Palace stays sane by creating his own hope. Even though he was fired from the police department – times have changed, nobody needs a detective any more – he decides to take on a missing person case. His old babysitter is frantically trying to find her husband who she claims just disappeared one day. He tries to convince her that he probably went bucket list along with thousands of other people, but she insists that’s not true. The further he investigates, the more he believes her and starts looking in earnest.This is a great story that shows strength of character and perseverance even though most of humanity has lost hope. I give Countdown City by Ben Winters 5 out of 5 stars.
  • (4/5)
    Book II of the Last Policeman trilogy, in which a young cop copes with the wait for a huge asteroid due to make a direct impact with Earth in 77 days. As society falls apart and the police give up trying to keep law and order, Hank Palace promises his old babysitter to search for her husband, who has disappeared. Such a disappearance is very common as humanity faces its certain decimation and possible end, but Martha is certain her husband hasn't just left or killed himself, and Hank promises to find him. In the process he makes contact with his sister, who has joined a group determined to undermine what they see as a government conspiracy to let the asteroid hit in the hope of world control.Winters continues to explore ways in which people might react to Earth's impending doom, and it makes for excellent storytelling. The book suffers a bit from being the middle of the series, as Hank and the rest of us wonder what will happen. But it's still fun to read and certainly leaves the reader wanting the third installment.
  • (4/5)
    Another tense, densely plotted, page-turner. A slightly darker story than "The Last Policeman," but another interesting one. I'm curious to see how the third book unfolds.
  • (4/5)
    How would you spend your remaining days if you knew an asteroid was on target to destroy the Earth in a few short months? Would you pack everything and travel the world? Would you finally do all those things you've been pushing off and just haven't ever gotten around to? Or would you continue living your life as if nothing has changed? Henry Palace is no longer employed with the Concord Police Department, but that doesn't stop him from solving various mysteries. Sure, the Earth is in the direct path of an asteroid but he continues working because that's what makes sense to him. That's always been what his life was about, what gave his life meaning and he isn't going to stop now just because his days are numbered. A missing person case has become quite simple in this day and age where people are running away from their lives to fulfill bucket lists and the like. Palace's lasted missing person investigation leads him to a group of revolutionaries that are slowly building their own society with their own new set of rules. As the clues begin falling together Palace realizes that not only is this not a simple missing person case but this is one individual that is on a crusade and doesn't wish to be found. While I'm a huge fan of post-apocalyptic novels, I'm beginning to understand the appeal of pre-apocalyptic novels as well. Being able to witness a society that is slowly preparing themselves for catastrophe and watching the evolution of society and civilization and watching things slowly change for the worst is not only mesmerizing but frightening in its realism. It will definitely leave you wondering how you would respond: would your survival instincts kick in or will you scramble away in fear?While the mystery aspect didn't hold the same intensity as the one in The Last Policeman, this was still an engaging installment. Society as we know it has reached its saturation point and the situation is bound to get worse. I eagerly await the final installment of this thrilling pre-apocalyptic tale to find out the fate of the Earth and the whole of civilization.
  • (4/5)
    We’re closer to doomsday in this one than in the first, but Henry still feels obligated to investigate what ultimately won’t matter. It’s just something he has to do. Even he can’t explain it when he’s asked over and over why he’s trying to find Brett. This time the story is more about the breakdown of society than it is about finding someone’s husband. It works well. It’s amazing how much of who and what we are as people depends on a future. Even if it’s not our personal future, but that of the rest of our community, we depend on it. Nothing holds us and we become nothing. Things are falling apart and the danger is palpable. When one of the characters says that it’s nothing compared to when the water will quit, boy is he ever right. Scary and well drawn. I mentioned in my review of the first book, that I usually can’t personally identify with locations in books very much because very few of them are set in my state. NH is pretty small and its capital, Concord, isn’t one of the largest cities. I was cruising along, soaking in the realism of the locale until we got to Fort Riley. Having worked in Kittery, Maine, I am familiar with the various forts along that section of coast where the Piscataqua empties into the Atlantic. Forts Constitution, Stark, Dearborn and McClary are all within a few miles of each other. Stark, Constitution and McClary face each other across the harbor. But none are right for how Fort Riley is described. It’s really an amalgam of all of them and I wished for an author’s note giving me some details about it. Most readers will assume it’s as real as everything else (like the Steeplegate Mall), but it’s not.Don’t let that stop you from reading it. Aside from some saves and happenstances that are a bit too convenient, it’s a good story. I wished that Brett’s motivation would have been less humdrum though. He’s portrayed so vividly through people’s descriptions of him and their experiences with him that I expected more from him. Disappointing. Henry takes a beating in this one though and it’s not easy to read about given the state of medicine at this point. There’s some decent foreshadowing though and my interest never waned. The third installment should be really interesting, although I do see a way for there to be a happy ending which I think would be inappropriate at this point, but we’ll see.
  • (4/5)
    Last year, I read and quite enjoyed the first book in Ben H. Winter's pre-apocalyptic trilogy, so I was looking forward to Countdown City. I was, however, also quite concerned I wouldn't like it, because my memories of The Last Policeman were sketchy at best and I had no time for a reread. While most of the plot of The Last Policeman remains a mystery, Winters' Countdown City is still enjoyable on its own right and the great world building remains consistent with the first book.You know how some people love to work, and wouldn't know what to do with free time if they had it? The ones who are workaholics and drive their spouses up the wall when they try to retire? Well, Henry Palace is that kind of guy. Even though the world is ending, he can't bear to sit still and wait for it. Though the detective division of the precinct has been closed and he has been let go, he still needs a mystery to keep himself occupied, to help distract him from the world's impending destruction. These individual mysteries form story arcs for each novel in the series, as the end of the world ticks closer.Why is the world ending? An asteroid. Humans will be going the way of the dinosaurs in less than three months. Most fascinating about Countdown City is the variety of human responses to impending demise. Some, like Henry, continue to go about their daily life as normally as possible. Those with means embark on their bucket lists, desperate to live their few remaining days to the fullest. Religious groups and radical organizations grow up overnight. Massive governmental changes occur, as the question of what's really worth the effort comes to the forefront.Already from The Last Policeman, the mood has shifted. Where the bulk of life was unchanged from normal, only with additional panic, in the first book, the world is already unrecognizable. Cops no longer investigate crimes, only around to keep some semblance of order. Food is already running out or not getting distributed well. Abandoned children are everywhere, parents gone bucket list, killed, or having committed suicide. As the days pass, violence and crime increase, as society rips apart at the seems in the anticipation of the end. It's this depiction that Winters does so well, and that makes Countdown City such a compelling read.Though not a particularly character-driven book, there's still something appealing about Henry's narration. He feels a bit remote, despite the first person narration, and yet I feel a good deal of affection for him. Perhaps the distance comes from the fact that I know he, and everyone else, will die, so I'm not all that caught up in his survival. He's also very much a detective, procedural and stern. However, there's also a humor and an honesty to Palace's narration that keeps him from feeling flat.The weak point of Countdown City is actually the mystery arc. It's entertaining enough, but didn't really hold my interest like the broader setting. The resolution of it, too, I found a bit anticlimactic. Of course, this does dovetail with the fact that the mystery isn't the point; the mystery serves merely as a distraction for Henry from what's coming.I highly recommend Ben H. Winters' Last Policeman trilogy to readers who appreciate excellent world building or who are intrigued by a pre-apocalyptic scenario. I look forward to finding out precisely how Winters will finish out this trilogy.
  • (5/5)
    4.5 is rare that the second book in a trilogy is near as good as the one that kicked it all off, but Ben Winters has penned another good one that kept me engrossed from cover to cover. If you're not familiar, I will give you the Readers Digest version: the first book in the series, The Last Policeman (which won an Edgar Award, by the way) introduced us to brand-spanking-new-detective Hank Palace. Hank had finally made detective, a lifelong dream but unfortunately, no one cares anymore because it has been confirmed that an asteroid is heading straight for Earth and there is no scientific possibility that it will miss the Earth in six months or so. But Hank Palace still feels compelled to solve crimes, even when no one else gives a you-know-what since it is certain humans are about to all die anyway.So here we are for book two and Earth has 77 days left before impact. Things are getting dicey as society breaks down further and further. This book, we get to hear even more of the societal effects this impending disaster has, something I thought was missing from the first novel but is very present here. And of course, Hank has another case. This time a missing person (if you read the first novel, you'll likely start laughing at the notion of a missing person being a case in Hank's world). All in all, I liked this at least as much as the first and it kept me glued to the pages, not an easy feat for any book these days. I could tell where the final installment is going and I like it, so I eagerly await the third.
  • (4/5)
    Countdown City is a somber, beautifully written look at civilization on the edge. As the rest of the world prepares for an impending asteroid by hoarding supplies or going Bucket List, former detective Hank Palace promises a young wife that he'll find her missing husband. Once again, Winters blends a traditional mystery with a careful, difficult look at human nature.
  • (4/5)
    Free LibraryThing Early Reviewer book. I enjoyed The Last Policeman, about a police officer investigating a murder mere months before an asteroid was scheduled to destroy humanity. It’s the ultimate noir situation: what do you do when what you do has no lasting effect? I didn’t realize it was going to be a trilogy, which draws a bit of the force away—the second book is another iteration of the same question, though society has deteriorated a lot further even in the short gap between the two books. Henry Palace investigates the disappearance of his old babysitter’s husband, a former cop himself, and encounters in the process a number of variously organized responses to the impending doom, including hope and nihilism but mostly about excluding some people in order to attend to others. Meanwhile, his sister has a plan to save the world; Henry doesn’t want to hear about it, but she prefers false hope to none. This was good, if depressing, and I will read the third book, but I almost want the apocalypse to happen, because I’m most interested in Henry’s iron determination to do small, orderly things no matter what else is going on.
  • (5/5)
    I loved the first book of the trilogy, and so was pleasantly surprised to find this one in my mailbox. Great blend of mystery and science fiction. In this book, the mystery wasn't quite as strong as the last book, but still enjoyable. However, Winters has handled the creation of this world quite well, and I am eagerly awaiting the final installment.
  • (4/5)
    I loved The Last Policeman, and I loved Countdown City, the second in the trilogy almost as much. In Countdown City, a little more than two months before the asteroid hits, things are getting real. The police department has let all the detectives go and become a paramilitary organization under the Justice Dept., so Henry Palace has lost the job he loved. The infrastructure is breaking down fast as the asteroid hurtles to Earth. The population is thinning out fast, too, as people despair and commit suicide. Those who don't have gone "bucket list" or joined a cult or fallen for scam artists promising a safe haven to weather the coming doom or have become survivalists. There are vague mentions of desperate immigrants fleeing the projected crash site in Eastern Europe and trying to get to America, being turned away at the borders or put into internment camps. As society disintegrates, Hank Palace does his best to retain order in his own life and do what he can to help others. When his former babysitter comes to him for help finding her missing husband Brett, Hank agrees reluctantly, knowing that Brett has probably gone bucket list, maybe with a girlfriend. As Hank goes about his strange unofficial investigation (and you know he would have been a bang-up amazing detective, had disaster not put an end to his job), we are reintroduced to some of the characters from the first book (Nico, Hank's slightly psychotic revolutionary little sister, and a couple of his former colleagues from the force) as well as meeting a number of interesting and/or strange new characters (Cortez, a black-market racketeer cum bodyguard; Houdini, "a puffy white bichon frise ... who used to belong to a drug dealer;" Ruth Ann, an ancient waitress in the diner Hank and the other former detectives meet at). The mystery was good, though the best part of this book is the descriptions of civilization on the brink of extinction ~ always grim, mostly depressing, but occasionally lighthearted and filled with humanity. One of my favorite parts, though bittersweet, has to do with the kid and the toy samarai sword; another is when Hank, pursuing a clue at a fomer university turned revolutionary commune, walks through the college library and sees a small group of university students, each of them in a separate carrel, piles of books beside each of them, frantically reading as many as possible before the end. Sounds like something I would do!Cannot wait until the third and final novel in the trilogy comes out to find out how it all ends.
  • (4/5)
    I came into this book without having read the first book, and I wish I had. Not because I needed to know any information in it, but because the second book is so good I'd like to read more in the series but think I've read some spoilers. And this series has only about two months until the end of the world. How many cases can this policeman solve in such a short time?Yes, this is an Apocalyptic Mystery - first of that genre pairing I've ever read. The characters were interesting, and the world even more so. In this world, the government hasn't held together and things are going much worse than they necessarily need to be. Going "bucket list" is common, running off with no word to anyone to do what you always wanted to while you still have time. Keeping a job because one has to doesn't hold any much power, so those public services we like such as garbage collection? You guessed it. It isn't happening. As for the mystery, finding a missing husband, it was compelling even though in the grand scheme of things, everyone is going to die soon enough. Definitely a fast-paced entertaining read. I loved it, If you have a problem with futility though, stay clear from all things apocalyptic.
  • (5/5)
    I really liked The Last Policeman when I read it last year, so I was pleased to received this early reading copy from Library Thing. Countdown City was even better than The Last Policeman. When I read the first book I don't think I was aware it was a trilogy and thought it ended rather abruptly, but it still made sense. Mr. Winters writes very well and his main character, Henry Palace (the last policeman), is a great character, flaws and all. The premise of an asteroid set to encounter earth and ending civilization as we know it, is really interesting and Winters has written it exactly as it would probably happen in the time leading up to the collision. Many different reactions to the situation, good and bad. I am anxious to read the third book when it comes out and then I will probably read them all again.