I picked up this book with anticipation and dread. Anticipation because I have loved this series, and dread because once I finished World of Trouble it would be over. Oh, the problems of readers and great books.
World of Trouble is the third and final book in Ben H. Winters's Last Policeman series. The world is ending, really ending. An asteroid is scheduled to crash into the planet in early October and most of the life on Earth is expected to go the way of the dinosaurs. Henry "Hank" Palace is promoted to detective as other officers resign to go fulfill their bucket list dreams before the world ends. In a way Hank is doing his bucket list - being a detective was always his dream job and he's not about to let a little thing like the end of the world stop him. In the first book Hank persists in solving a murder that appears to be a suicide. In the second he takes on a missing person case. In this last book the case is more personal: he's looking for his little sister Nico.
Hank last saw Nico when she rescued him after he was shot. Saving Hank was a pit stop on her way to saving the world. There was a scientist who worked out a way to do it by blasting a nuke into space and altering the course of the object hurdling towards the planet. Nico and others were working to get the scientist to where he needed to be to make it all happen. Hank listened in disbelief as Nico explained the plan to him. He tried to make his sister understand that there was nothing to be done, but Nico wouldn't accept that. She had hope. The two siblings parted, each thinking the other was blind to the truth. Now with just two weeks before the asteroid is expected to alter the planet in a most severe way Hank realizes that he wants to spend what little time there is left with the last surviving member of his family. And so Hank, with his dog Houdini and a not entirely trustworthy companion he met on his last case, leaves the woods of New England and sets off for Ohio where Nico was last headed.
Hank is single-minded in a way that is almost certifiable. When he's on a case he doesn't stop even when personal safety or common sense suggest that he should (or at least that he should take a step back and try a different tactic). He is a person who must know the truth, who must solve the puzzle. Under normal circumstances this would probably make him a great cop, the guy you want on your side because you know he will stop at nothing to find the truth and bring the perpetrator to justice. Under world ending circumstances he's still a great cop, a great man even, but he's also arguably a little crazy. Nico was in denial about the impending the end of the world. In a way Hank's insistence on discovering the truth and ferreting out wrongdoers in world where the big truth is that life is about to end is its own form of denial.
This is one of the best series I've read in awhile. Every book was strong. The characters, the details about society as it crumbles under the despair of impending doom - it all worked. I'm so sad the series is over.