Owlcat’s CBR V review #19 of Countdown City (Last Policeman #2) by Ben H. Winters

Having read the first book in this trilogy of a pre-apocalyptic world, I was so eager to read the second book, Countdown City, I pre-ordered it and was thrilled when it arrived in July to my Kindle.

The story picks up from the previous book, now with only 77 days remaining before the asteroid’s impact in Southeast Asia. The main character, Hank Palace, has lost his job as a police detective with the Concord, NH, Police Department, the result of federalization throughout the country of security venues. The story begins when a former babysitter, who sat for him and his sister when they were little, asks his help to find her husband, who may or may not have gone “bucket list” like a lot of other people and has disappeared without telling her or anyone anything.  This is so out of character for him that his wife is absolutely sure there is much more to his leaving. With the loss of phones, cars, and other normal modern amenities, this is a task almost impossible to accomplish but he relies on his own intuition, as well as his sister, who in the previous book had joined a band of rebels who believe in true conspiracy mode that the U.S. government is not telling people everything and which is generally anarchist. He knows she may have a solution to finding this man through her various contacts, particularly the community that has taken over what used to be the University of New Hampshire. He and she travel there, he finds some answers, and pursues his quest to find the man who apparently is not the person his wife believed he was.

Consequently, he is thrown into several murderous scenarios, almost losing his own life in the process.  Throughout the book, however, because he is such a decent man with a high degree of integrity and determination, despite the world and society around him falling apart, he plows forth with finding answers, whether they are ones he or the wife want to hear.  He has his moments of doubt and many moments of fear and confusion when what had seemed black and white turns out to be grey.  He also discovers some of what his sister and others have told him about the government’s deceptions appear to be true, particularly regarding the “boat people” who travel in horrific conditions from the South Asian countries to the shores of this country, hoping for at least a minimal chance of survival when the asteroid hits by being as far away as they can be from its epicenter and within a country that has boundaries and morals.  He is dismayed and frustrated and angry but these emotions also feed his determination to accomplish the nearly impossible so he can bring some answers and “closure” to his former baby sitter.

In the process he nearly dies, though obviously the reader is aware that isn’t going to happen because there is a third book due within this trilogy.  As in the first book, the Hank’s character is intriguing and admirable, but has enough flaws of his own to make him believable.  Other characters within the story are well developed, likeable in some ways, dislikeable in others, just as in real life.  Winters has woven the story well, though to be honest, although I’ve seen from other reviews that many thought this book was better than the first, I preferred the first.  The plot in this story was slow to develop and the multitude of characters a little difficult to keep sorted.  The ending, however, was quite believable and again, throughout, the book makes the reader wonder how he or she would react under these circumstances, with the impending doom of an asteroid strike that will undoubtedly kill of most human beings throughout the world and which has already affected society in many unpleasant, negative ways.  It is a book worth reading for those questions alone, and now I truly look forward to the third book in the trilogy, though am not certain when it will be available.  When I finished this second book, I had wished I could just keep on reading to the end event!