I feel for authors writing the final part of a trilogy. It must be hell. You’ve put all that work in, ensnared all those readers, built up their expectations. They’re expecting something big. You don’t want to mess up.
It helps of course, when you’ve already got one of the most interesting and endearing detectives since Sherlock Holmes to play around with. Enter Henry “Hank” Palace, for the final instalment in Ben H. Winters’ brilliant The Last Policeman series.
Picking up directly where he left off in Countdown City, Henry leaves the comfort of the safe house created by his former colleagues to solve one last mystery – this disappearance of his sister Nico. Accompanied by his trusty Bichon Frisé Houdini and the not-so-trusty-yet-resourceful Cortez, Hank once again takes to the road, his compulsion to investigate driving him ever forward.
With only days left, we start to see a different Hank Palace than we’re used to, his flaws starting to show, the pressure finally getting to him, desperation and frustration seeping through his calm exterior as he tries to navigate and negotiate his way through ever-changing terrain to find his sister before it’s too late.
As lines blur, we see Palace’s methods become more and more unorthodox and his interactions with others becoming more selfish, his sense of duty still compelling him to help those he meets along the way, yet often leaving them behind to fend for themselves once he has done so. For all his imperfections though, Hank Palace remains eminently likeable, and we are given some extra insight into his background which helps us to understand his frame of mind a little better.
World Of Trouble does a beautiful job of finishing the series. Unapologetic in its sense of urgency, it retains the interest and atmosphere of the first two books while ramping up the pace until the gripping and wonderful conclusion, when time almost seems to slow down as Winters does justice to what is one of the most satisfying and entertaining characters to grace a page in many years. Winters’ prose is beautifully descriptive and evokes genuine melancholy as we join Hank in watching the world collapse around him and there are some brilliantly poignant scenes but even with all this going on we still take an interest in his investigation and wonder at his often ingenious deductions.
The Last Policeman series has been one of my favourite trilogies in recent years and World Of Trouble ends it perfectly. An amazing accomplishment.