7.30.2013

Countdown City, by Ben H. Winters

Countdown City
Countdown City, by Ben H. Winters, picks up a few months after The Last Policeman ended. In protagonist Hank Palace's world, a huge asteroid is on a collision course with Indonesia. The asteroid is as big as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs at the end of the Jurassic. Countdown City opens at T-minus two and a half months.

Even though most of the world has given up or gone Bucket List (meaning that they've taken off to do whatever they've always wanted to), Hank is still taking on cases. He was a detective for only fifteen months before the state government shut down all criminal investigations. Hank just can't stop trying to put things right. He and the diner he hangs out with at with the other ex-cops seem to be the only things that are actually trying to keep doing business as normal.

Martha Milano, Hank's former babysitter, asks Hank to track down her husband. Brett, she says, is a good man, so noble that he wouldn't walk away from her even if the world is going to end. Because the world really is going to end, Hank doesn't have any of the usual resources. He's reduced to biking around Concord and following Brett's trail from person to person, accompanied by his less than faithful companion, Houdini the bichon frisé. The trail goes from a combination pizza parlor/paintball gallery to a revolutionized college campus to an abandoned Army fort.

The case is more than just a missing husband. The case is a focal point for the chaos around Hank and Concord, New Hampshire. The revolutionary college campus is the least of it. Just when Hank seems to be getting somewhere with his case, the few remaining cops disappear and the last bits of civilization snap. As Hank describes it:
The countdown has begun, and all the haphazard arrangements--the rummages and the ersatz restaurants and the bartering and the residents associations--all the vestigial institutions are crumbling into the past, and it's every man for himself from now on, and here I am with no house, no gun, no possessions or any kind. I'm down to one arm. I'm wearing a borrowed shirt and torn suit pants. (287*)

This is the second book in the trilogy, but it doesn't have any of the usual middle book problems. It has a terrific ending, a perfect wrap up for the case and the end of civilization. The ending also left me wanting desperately to get my hands on the last book, just to see what happens to Hank. (And his dog.) Even though things are pretty much hopeless on the global level, I still feel a little bit of hope. Maybe I've read too much fiction (okay, I've read too much fiction), but I still think things might work out okay for the erstwhile detective.

__________

* From the Kindle edition.

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