The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter (Part 1)

The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter: Malniveau Prison (Book 1)
Hard Case Crime/August 7th, 2012
Kind thanks to Hard Case Crime for providing a review copy

The body found in the gutter in France led the police inspector to the dead man’s beautiful daughter—and to her hot-tempered American husband.

A hardboiled private eye hired to keep a movie studio’s leading lady happy uncovers the truth behind the brutal slaying of a Hollywood starlet.

A desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption finds himself with blood on his hands and the police on his trail…

Three complete novels that, taken together, tell a single epic story, about an author whose life is shattered when violence and tragedy consume the people closest to him. It is an ingenious and emotionally powerful debut performance from literary detective and former bookseller Ariel S. Winter, one that establishes this talented newcomer as a storyteller of the highest caliber.

1931: When a dead man washes up in a gutter of the provincial town of Verargent, the local police think it’s just a drunk, drowned in the downpour. The dead man has actually been stabbed to death, and it’s discovered he’s recently escaped from prison. Chief Inspecter Pelleter and Verargent chief of police Letreau team up to find a killer, which leads to something much bigger than one dead convict. The body count soon starts to rise, children go missing, and seemingly at the center of it all, is a child killer, imprisoned at Malvineau. When the dead man’s daughter (and wife of American novelist Shem Rosencrantz) goes missing, Pelleter knows that time may be running out, and is determined to find the truth.

The Twenty-Year Death is made up of three complete novels, spanning three decades, in the style of three great mystery writers. Connecting these three novels is the “great American novelist” Shem Rosencrantz. I thought it might be fun to do the review in three parts, so of course this review focuses on the first novel, Malniveau Prison, written in the style of the legendary Georges Simenon (Commissaire Maigret series 1931-1972). Centering on Pelleter, the story follows his investigation into the questionable deaths of several prisoners at Malniveau. Dogged to the end, Pelleter follows the clues by the book, seeing things through even as he misses his wife, and quite a bit of sleep, respectively. I enjoyed this seemingly straightforward procedural. I say seemingly because while it rarely veers from the investigation, when it does, the insights into its characters are illuminating and striking, perhaps because of the straightforward nature of the writing. This was a strong start to what promises to be a fascinating crime novel. More to come!

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