Cross-genre D.C. mystery tackles social issues with grit, humor


Jen Lu and her AI sidekick confront climate change and longevity drugs in 2033

TORONTO, Canada — Set in Washington, D.C. in 2033, climate change has hit hard, fires are burning, unemployment is high, and controversial longevity treatments are only available to the ultra-rich. Enter resourceful young police detective, Jen B. Lu, and her partner, Chandler, a synthetic computer implant in her brain acting as her link to police records and a constant voice inside her head. He’s a wannabe tough guy with a sense of humor and his own ideas about solving crimes.

As a detective in the Elder Abuse unit, Jen is supposed to be investigating kids pushing their aging parents to “exit” so they are eligible to get the longevity drug. But what really has her attention are the persistent rumors about Eden, an illegal version of the longevity drug, and the bizarre outbreak of people aging almost overnight, then suddenly dying.
When Jen’s investigations of Eden take her too close to the truth, she is suspended, Chandler is deactivated, and her boyfriend is freaked out by “the thing inside her brain”—leaving Jen to pursue a very dangerous investigation all on her own.

“The Last Exit: A Jen Lu Mystery”

Michael Kaufman | Jan. 12, 2021 | Crooked Lane | Mystery
Hardcover | ISBN: 9781643855677 | Price: $27.99

Praise for the book…

“[An] outstanding series launch…Exceptional worldbuilding is complemented by sympathetic characters and suspenseful plot twists. Kaufman is a writer to watch.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Kaufman keeps the pot boiling…A strong, richly imagined brew.”
Kirkus Reviews

“An engrossing thriller set in a fascinatingly plausible near future, The Last Exit centres on a human-AI partnership that’s as believable as it’s moving.”
Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of Room

The Last Exit hits hard. Fast action—a melding of the mental and physical—keeps this smart futuristic thriller racing, and its contemporary implications keep the reader thinking.”
Thomas Perry, bestselling author of A Small Town

“Global warming, deadly epidemics, and frightening advances in artificial intelligence combine to add unbearable tension to this fast-paced and, somehow, even funny mystery.”
Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director, DC Public Library

“Detective Lu has troubles aplenty coming at her in this fast-paced thriller: a baffling mystery to solve when too many people start dying too fast, personal moral quandaries to wrestle with, and a cruel and inequitable society on the brink of chaos to navigate.”
—Con Lehane, author of the 42nd Street Library mysteries

“I love a book that makes me think, shows me a different world, and makes me savor the world I have, and be more grateful for it.”
Anne Perry, international bestselling author of the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries

“A highly accomplished debut that does not miss a beat.”
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, bestselling author of Last Ritual

About the author…

MICHAEL KAUFMAN: Michael has worked for decades engaging men to support women’s rights and positively transform the lives of men. He is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. He volunteers as a senior fellow at Promundo (Washington, DC) and has worked in fifty countries with the United Nations, governments, NGOs and educators. He advised the French government in 2019 as a member of its G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council. He is the author of numerous nonfiction and fiction works, and was awarded the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His most recent nonfiction book is The Time Has Come. Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution (2019) and his most recent novel is The Last Exit: A Jen Lu Mystery (2020). His books and articles have been translated into fourteen languages. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, having lived in Durham, North Carolina, and now living in Toronto, Canada, he is married and has a daughter and a son. For more information, please visit:

In an interview, Michael Kaufman can discuss:

  • Which aspects of the novel parallel our biggest fears in 2021, and what a hopeful take on dystopian themes can teach us about moving forward.
  • How a decades-long career in gender equality influenced his fiction writing.
  • How The Last Exit blends elements of the police procedural mystery genre with those of political thrillers, science fiction, speculative fiction, anti-racist and feminist works.
  • His thoughts on weaving themes about climate change, technology, the role of the police, and political corruption into a work of fiction.
  • What’s next for Jen Lu.

An Interview with Michael Kaufman

1. You’ve written seven non-fiction books and worked in fifty countries with the UN, governments, women’s organizations, companies, and educators to engage men to support women’s rights and end violence against women. Why are you making this shift to writing fiction?

I’ve always read much more fiction than non-fiction, including a zillion mysteries, and I have two other published novels. I’ve long wanted to focus on fiction-writing, but for many years there were so few men speaking out for women’s rights and for men to play an equal role in raising children that I felt a responsibility to put most of my attention on that. Now there are thousands of us and many organizations that engage men and boys–so I felt that the time had come to focus on the thing I’ve long dreamed of doing.

2. Your book has people wearing N95 masks, a virus affecting great numbers, a massive forest fire, and an uprising against the police. Did you write this in response to Covid-19, the 2019 and 2020 West Coast fires, and Black Lives Matter?

It does have a bit of a “ripped from the headlines” feel, but I swear on a stack of Bibles all that was in the drafts written in 2018 and early 2019. An early draft has “Jen put on her N95” because of smoke from a forest fire; I edited it to read “her N95 mask” because I figured readers wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Oh how things change. There are details, however, that even the most fevered imagination couldn’t cook up: like a virus killing millions being called a hoax and people showing their lemming-like political loyalties by defying simple public health measures. That definitely is not in this book.

3. Why did you choose to highlight hope within what might otherwise be a very dark novel? In these difficult times, can we actually imagine a future with real hope?

Set in 2033, The Last Exit, does have a few dystopian elements, but the same could be said for Washington, D.C. in, say, 2020 and 2021. But it’s a positive book, full of hope–not because I’m naive, but because I believe in our personal and collective capacity to build a better future. One reason I wrote this book (other than to be utterly entertaining!) was to give people a chance to experience that hope and to understand how we can act, both on our own and together, to change the world.

4. While there’s an important mystery at its core, The Last Exit also blends in elements from other genres, such as: political thrillers, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, anti-racist and feminist works. Which elements did you seek to highlight (or avoid) within these multiple genres?

First and foremost, The Last Exit is a mystery, with strong elements of a police procedural. I wanted it to be exciting but also a ton of fun to read. I wanted it to be thrilling, but definitely not a techno-thriller or a chase novel. I wanted it to be a page turner but have solid literary chops. Yes, it’s set in the very near future, but it doesn’t focus on technology–a few things have changed but it looks pretty much like Washington, D.C. today. I wanted my feminist, anti-racist, LGBQT-positive, and pro-economic-equality ideals just to be there, as part of Jen Lu’s world, and not something the book makes speeches about.

5. What’s next for you? Can readers expect to see more from Jen Lu in the future?

Although I’ll continue as a public voice for women’s rights and better ideals of manhood, my focus for the years ahead is my fiction writing. I’ve finished a draft of the second Jen Lu mystery and I’m really excited by the direction it’s taking. I’m writing a screenplay based on my first novel, and I’ll soon return to work on a literary novel I started years ago.