River City Reading

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Countdown City - Ben H. Winters Picking up where 2013 Edgar Award Winner The Last Policeman left off, Countdown City begins with just 74 days remaining before a catastrophic asteroid collides with Earth. Though he is no longer working with the Concord Police Department, Henry Palace takes on a final case when a childhood friend asks him to help find her missing husband. As the asteroid inches closer to Earth, society's basic functions begin to fall apart, which makes finding someone like Brett Cavatone nearly impossible. Henry uses the unconventional resources at his disposal to retrace Cavatone's steps and return him to his wife while humanity's clock ticks away.

Following up a successful first novel is not an easy task, but it's refreshing to see that Countdown City has all the things that made The Last Policeman so enjoyable, especially for someone who rarely picks up crime fiction. Winters sets his characters in a world thrown off course by an impending catastrophe, but is never bogged down by clarifying technical details of the asteroid's path, as they are not central to his stories. What is important is the human reaction to the news that the world is coming to an end, and that's where the shifted world becomes clear: food shortages, children left behind by parents going "Bucket List", suicides, and colonies for those who think the disaster can be stopped.

By the end of Countdown City, we know that Winters will be expanding Henry's world a bit more as time winds down in the third and final book of the trilogy. There are several possibilities, but I'm quite anxious to see what decisions Henry will make and what paths each supporting character will follow. Countdown City has established that Winters is far more than a one hit wonder, but a wonder of world building and genre-blending.

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