I read and enjoyed Ben H. Winters's The Last Policeman about a year ago. It was a detective novel with a good gimmick: As everyone on Earth comes to terms with the fact that an asteroid is due to render all human life extinct, police detective Hank Palace tries to solve a crime. The problem is, since everyone knows that the asteroid is going to destroy the planet in a matter of months, normal daily life has pretty much fallen apart. It interferes with Palace's investigation and makes everything more complicated.

I didn't realize at the time that The Last Policeman was the first book in a projected trilogy, and I confess to being nervous about reading the second book in the series, Countdown City. Mystery series are tough to pull off, and a mystery series set at the end of the world seems even tougher. And it's true that Countdown City does lose some of the goodwill that The Last Policeman earned. Palace is a little less charming than he was when we were first getting to know him. But the plot makes up for the lack of novelty: as the incoming asteroid gets closer to Earth, society is crumbling even further, and Palace's job is getting harder and harder. When a woman from Palace's past asks him to find her missing husband, he's got to make his way through a world where gasoline, food, and attention are all dwindling resources. Everyone feels a little edgier in Countdown City, the circumstances feel a little more desperate as the asteroid approaches.

Everything comes together in an interesting way, and Countdown City brings things to as much of a close as a mid-trilogy entry possibly can. But now that I've followed Palace for two books, I can't wait to read the third book in this series. I also hope that the third book will follow through with Winters's promise to bring an ending to the series. The world can only take so long to end before the whole thing feels like an empty threat.