Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): What's the point of solving murders if we're all going to die soon, anyway?
Hank Palace, a homicide detective in Concord, New Hampshire, asks this question every day. Most people have stopped doing whatever it is they did before the asteroid 2011L47J hovered into view. Stopped selling real estate; stopped working at hospitals; stopped slinging hash or driving cabs or trading high-yield securities. A lot of folks spend their days on bended knee, praying to Jesus or Allah or whoever they think might save them. Others have gone the other way, roaming the streets, enjoying what pleasures they can before the grand finale. Government services are beginning to slip into disarray, crops are left to rot.When it first appeared, 2011L47J was just a speck, somewhere beyond Jupiter's orbit. By mid-October it revealed itself to be seven kilometers in diameter, and on a crash course with the Earth. Now it's March, and sometime in September, 2011L47J will slam into our planet and kill half the population immediately, and most of the rest in the miserable decades that follow.
All of humanity now, every person in the world--we're like a bunch of little kids, in deep, deep trouble, just waiting till our dad gets home. So what do I do while I wait? I work.
Today, Hank Palace is working the case of Peter Zell, an insurance man who has comitted suicide. To his fellow police officers, it's just one more death-by-hanging in a city that sees a dozen of suicides every week. But Palace senses something wrong. There's something odd about the crime scene. Something off. Palace becomes convinced that it's murder. And he's the only one who cares.What's the difference, Palace? We're all gonna die soon, anyway.As Palace digs deeper, we are drawn into his world. We meet his sister Nico and her screwup boyfriend, Derek, who are trying to beam S.O.S messages into outer space; we meet Erik Littlejohn, a "spiritual advisor" helping his clients through these difficult times. Palace's investigation plays out under the long shadow of 2011L47J, forcing everyone in the book -- and those reading it-- to confront hard questions way beyond "whodunnit." What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we do, if our days were numbered?
And here's what I thought: I finished reading this book right around when I finished The Age of Miracles, so I've read two completely different pre-apolcalyptic novels in the last few weeks. Both of them do ask the same kind of question, though: If you knew when your last day on Earth would be, how would you live the rest of your days? In this story, Detective Hank Palace chooses to do his job and try to solve a murder, despite the fact that the Earth has six months until disaster. Most people wouldn't care about this dead man -- after all, who cares? But Hank Palace cares, and that's part of what made this a pretty compelling read for me.
I liked that Hank's not an open book as a character -- it takes time to get to know him, and even then, I wasn't always sure I really knew him. I'm fine with that -- it keeps me interested. The storyline also kept me interested, with Hank solving the murder --- because it soon becomes apparent that there's a lot more to this one man's death than first meets the eye. I liked that the author gave me some twists and turns, and kept me guessing. I don't read a lot of mysteries, but when I do, I like to be surprised by the ending.
Going on in the background of the story is the ever-present disaster, and how other people are living out the last six months that they have. As might be expected, the economy has tanked, and a lot of people don't see the point of going to work and doing their jobs (which makes sense). I like how the author plotted this, planned an "expiration date," and then shows how the world is reacting -- and how Hank's determination to do his job plays out against all of that. Even without the impending disaster, however, this is a great mystery story, with an even pace, and well-written characters. I can see why the author has been an Edgar Award nominee -- this is good stuff! This is also the first book of a planned trilogy, so I'm already looking forward to the next story.
This book officially comes out on July 10, 2012, so I'd encourage you to look for it at your local bookstore or library. Thanks very much to Quirk Books for contacting me, and sending me this book. I'm including the official Book Trailer, as well, so you can take a look, if you're interested (I think it's really well done):
First lines: I'm staring at the insurance man and he's staring at me, two cold gray eyes behind old-fashioned tortoiseshell frames, and I'm having this awful and inspiring feeling, like holy moly this is real, and I don't know if I'm ready, I really don't.