Book Review : World of Trouble by Ben H Winters

With just 14 days before impact, Henry Palace is in a frantic race to find his sister and solve one more mystery before the end. World of Trouble(The Last Policeman #3) by Ben H Winters is the conclusion to The Last Policeman trilogy. The first two books were good, not great, for me… will the third be status quo, or will the end of this trilogy have me feeling better about the series?

Spoilers, I liked this one better than the first two and I’ll explain why in a minute.

But first… let’s get to…

The Details

World of Trouble (The Last Policeman #3) is written by author Ben H Winters and was originally published on July 15th, 2014 by Quirk Books.

This is book three in a trilogy and if you haven’t yet, you can check out my reviews here of books one – Book Review : The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters and two – Book Review : Countdown City by Ben H Winters or our Story Club discussion/episode with members of the AIC Stories Discord right here: Story Club 003 – The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters.

So… let’s get to it.

Summary

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

FROM GOODREADS

“There are just 14 days until a deadly asteroid hits the planet, and America has fallen into chaos. Citizens have barricaded themselves inside basements, emergency shelters, and big-box retail stores. Cash is worthless; bottled water is valuable beyond measure. All over the world, everyone is bracing for the end.

But Detective Hank Palace still has one last case to solve. His beloved sister Nico was last seen in the company of suspicious radicals, armed with heavy artillery and a plan to save humanity. Hank’s search for Nico takes him from Massachusetts to Ohio, from abandoned zoos and fast food restaurants to a deserted police station where he uncovers evidence of a brutal crime. With time running out, Hank follows the clues to a series of earth-shattering revelations.

The third novel in the Last Policeman trilogy, World of Trouble presents one final pre-apocalyptic mystery—and Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond whodunit: How far would you go to protect a loved one? And how would you choose to spend your last days on Earth?

The Good

Right off the bat this book just FEELS different.

It’s still Henry Palace doing the things that make him HIM, the never ending quest for solving any mystery he happens upon, the unstoppable force of nature that will do whatever he can to find his sister, the man that wrestles with himself internally in an effort to STAY on the path of what is right.

But this Henry is broken, traversing a world that is completely unraveled in the days just prior to the end of the world. There is a frantic feel to this entire book that keeps you at the proverbial “edge of your seat”. The best way I can describe it will require you to follow me on something for a second, here we go.

Book one was largely a strict murder mystery police procedural set against the backdrop of the end of the world. Book two was a missing persons case that resulted in some murders and very little actual police work as Henry is no longer a detective. This was set against a backdrop of the world wearing thin as doomsday approaches. A world where people are beginning to unravel and lose hope.

Book three, this book, is like stepping into a world that felt very primitive and dangerous. Wilderness was reclaiming all, people have descended into a “tribe” mentality, there are no rules, no laws, no police. It all feels so visceral and wild and Henry seems to be on the verge of catastrophe every step of the way.

For my fellow gaming geeks out there, this book really gave me some serious Fallout series vibes, minus the nuclear radiation and monsters. More akin to having to traverse and solve a mystery in the worlds of Fallout 76.

And I loved that.

We also see Henry finally crack his own personal code. What is it that drives him, that makes him who (and how) he is?

This quote from the book, while short, may be the ultimate summary.

“I am a question mark pointed at a secret, Cortez is a tool aimed at the stubborn places of the world.”

Winters, Ben H.. World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III (Last Policeman Trilogy 3) (p. 75). Quirk Books. Kindle Edition.

Obviously there is more to Henry than just that one statement, but at his core this is him. He cares deeply for his sister (and Naomi) and everything else that drives him is an internal need to uncover and solve secrets and mysteries.

Speaking of Naomi.

The one thing this book does so well, in the midst of the frantic chaos, is give these small moments of introspection. Moments when Henry finds himself reflecting on life, on those he loved or cared about, and in some ways on what he’s set to lose when this asteroid hits.

Winters doesn’t spend long on these moments, they feel like a quick breath before the sprint begins again and the chase continues, but they are beautiful and powerful. In particular there is one passage where he is remembering Naomi and how, after just that one night they had together, she had stolen his heart.

Sometimes, when I can’t help it, I imagine how things might otherwise have ended up for us. Possible futures surface like fish from deep water; like memories of things that never got to happen. We might one day have been one of those happy sitcom households, cheerfully chaotic, with the colorful alphabet magnets making bright nonsense words on the refrigerator, with the chores and yard work, getting the kids out the door in the morning. Murmuring conversations late at night, just the two of us left awake.

Winters, Ben H.. World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III (Last Policeman Trilogy 3) (p. 129). Quirk Books. Kindle Edition.

I don’t know, maybe it’s sappy. But with the frantic, chaotic pace of this book, a story that is often unbearably bleak, moments like these served to change the pace and keep it from becoming completely depressing to read.

There’s a lot to like about this book, but in the interest of brevity… let’s get to the things that didn’t click quite as well.

The Not So Good

If I had to give just one consistent gripe about this series, well actually about three, but THIS is one of the biggest in each book, it’s this.

The scenario where Henry is BADLY injured in some way shape or form. There are no hospitals or emergency care… yet he’s able to just get up and keep going. Sure it’s addressed via a limp or wooziness or other such difficulties, but he still just get’s up like a super-hero and keeps on trucking.

This book he has a couple such moments and in every one he’s right back on his feet pushing forward because “he has to solve they mystery before it’s too late”.

I get it.

We have to see our hero struggle or the story gets boring. BUT, when the struggle (and resulting injuries) are so great and then shrugged off so easily… it makes them feel like they aren’t really a threat after all so why bother with them.

Throughout the series there have been a lot of moments where we, as readers, have been asked to just roll with some pretty huge leaps of faith. Moments that don’t make any sense, or that seem to be Henry having incredibly good luck out of the blue.

While there are one or two of those moments in this book, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were minimal. However, one of them, a miraculous healing from a character over the span of just a couple days and with NO medical attention, greatly annoyed me as I read. I won’t say anything more about that because I don’t want to spoil anything, but trust me… you’ll know it when you read it.

There are just two other things about World of Trouble (The Last Policeman #3) that were maybe NOT so good.

The first being that it does such a beautiful job through MOST of the book allowing us get to KNOW Henry as the story unfolds, but in possibly the BIGGEST personal moment in the story… well it’s almost like Henry gets closed off or hidden from us. Sure we get some emotion, some passion, some fire… but nothing that you would EXPECT to see from Henry in this moment. The drive to solve the mystery seems larger than the events unfolding, which is bizarre.

I guess that could be another taste of who Henry REALLY is? Who knows.

But, this leads me to the final point that wasn’t so good. Much like the other books(especially book 2) the ending seems to just kind of pop up and end. They mystery is largely solved and finished and then we’re just suddenly treated to “The End”. It feels abrupt and a bit unsatisfying.

We’ve had this massive ramp up through the whole book, the pace is frantic and harrowing, the final moments of the mystery being solved are tense and hair raising. You would expect the ending to somewhat wind down and show you the way out of the story. Instead you go to the next paragraph and everything just ends.

It’s kind of like hopping on a treadmill for a workout. You start out with a brisk walk to warm up, begin running, then sprinting, adding miles and distance and adrenaline fueled work until you feel like you just can’t take another step. Now, normally at this point you’d drop your pace down to a walking pace and let your body, muscles and mind cool down before you get off the treadmill and hit the showers.

The ending in this book feels more like you were at top speed, sprinting for all you were worth, and then just stepped off and said “I’m done”, left the machine spinning empty in the background wondering where in the hell the runner went.

Not into running? Don’t worry, I’m not either! Here’s another analogy for how these endings seem to happen.

Imagine you are having an intense and passionate night with your significant other, things are heating up, building to that ultimate crescendo. You’re both SUPER connected and in the moment and as the crescendo hits, the grand finale, the climax of the evening… you’re partner doesn’t say a word, only gets up and walks into the other room and sits down to watch the news… leaving you feeling like you were just robbed of that satisfying ending to the evening and now get to quietly clean up and go to sleep alone… wondering what just happened yet questioning if you even care.

Of course they all have an epilogue chapter to wrap things up a bit, and by and large they are perfect to tie up the story. The epilogue that ends this book is the perfect blend of sweet, tender moments and sadness. No problems there at all.

But the actual ending of the final chapter is just so. damn. abrupt.

I didn’t like it at all, it wasn’t satisfying and felt like it let me down totally as a reader.

The Bottom Line

I know I need to give a conclusion on THIS book alone, but being it’s the end of a trilogy I apologize if it’s slightly mixed with some final thoughts on the series as a whole as well. I’ll try to keep it focused MAINLY on this book as much as possible however.

First things first.

I said it at the beginning – I enjoyed World of Trouble much more than either of the first two books, Countdown City / The Last Policeman, but it’s still not in the “great” category for me.

The chaotic feeling of the apocalypse upon us, the frantic pace of the mystery, the revealing of Henry’s true character… these are all fantastically done. Seeing the true darkness that overwhelms most of humanity as the asteroid impact approaches was balanced really well with the small handful of people that shined as beacons of hope, well not really hope, more of just a feeling of goodness and kindness in people.

As a series it presents a fascinating question for us to think about. Just what would WE do if an asteroid was tearing towards Earth and our days were numbered?

BUT.

This was also something I struggled with(more-so in the first two books than here in the third). With today’s ultra charged atmosphere in real life, be it politics, pandemics, and the general feeling of doom and gloom we are fed on the news every day… it made it really uncomfortable at times to read these books.

Had I read them when they were first released I think I would have felt very different about them. Reading them in 2021, however, well…. we all know what life has been like from 2020 through 2021… and it colors our perspectives a bit.

That IS why I think I enjoyed the third book more than the first two. It’s so far into the feeling of the world being a “chaotic wasteland” that it truly FEELS like a wonderfully crafted fictional world versus feeling like we’re all ACTUALLY living through it every day.

Overall I’ve enjoyed this series and the final book really helped that along. It was enjoyable, but not memorable in the sense that the books never lingered with me for long after I finished them.

As a stand-alone book, World of Trouble was a super fun romp through a world evolving to a wasteland.

With that, I gave World of Trouble (The Last Policeman #3) a 4 out of 5 stars.

And for the series as a whole, averaged out, The Last Policeman Trilogy earns a 3.3 out of 5 stars.

It’s a fun series that moves from pretty hardcore detective mystery with a side story of world ending drama and into a world in chaos where Henry is just trying to survive and solve one last mystery.

By far, however, this final book in the trilogy was much more fun than the first two. Yet still, the endings of the books(and series ultimately) felt like they fizzled a bit, which leaves me feeling that they were enjoyable books, just not overly memorable.

As always, your mileage may vary.

***

If you enjoy the reviews and enjoy the AIC Stories Podcast experience, consider helping out by sharing this review, sharing the podcast episodes you love, telling your friends about us, and giving us a follow on social media.

Of course if you want to financially support AIC Stories you can always join us at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/aicstories! Your support there goes directly into continuing to bring you the podcast content you love, as well as allowing me to keep growing and expanding that which is possible here in the AIC Stories universe.

No matter how you support AIC Stories I greatly appreciate it and appreciate YOU spending some time with me.

Keep reading, listening, and enjoying stories!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *