The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter is an incredible piece of hard case crime work. The book is actually three different stories that are connected through a larger overarching story. The twist on the three different stories is that they each take place in a different decade and are penned in the style of a different iconic hard crime/pulp fiction author.
The first novel occurs during the 1930s and is written in the style of Georges Simenon. It is set in a small town in France near a large national prison. Although the town is essentially a prison town, it is known for being relatively peaceful with a low crime rate until a series of mysterious murders take the town by surprise. Luckily, the chief inspector is in town and takes on the case. This novel is told through the eyes of the chief inspector as he goes through the investigation. The most fascinating aspect of this first novel is the interplay between the national prison and the small town, which prefers to pretend that the prison does not exist until the mysterious murders shake their relative peace.
The second novel occurs during the 1940s and is written in the style of Raymond Chandler. The location for this novel is Hollywood and the town of San Angelos. This novel focuses on the studios and corruption that was inherent within all the power of the studio heads. This novel is told through the eyes of a private investigator who is hired by the studio as a patsy. The private inspector has to deal with the interplay between shielding his eyes and taking an easy payday or following his instincts and pursuing an investigation he is strongly encouraged to not pursue.
The third novel occurs during the 1950s and is written in the style of Jim Thompson. The location for this novel is Calvert City in Maryland. This novel focuses on a once famous author who has had his life destroyed by murder, violence and crime. The novel focuses on the world through his eyes and his battle with alcoholism and the present state of his life.
The three novels present a fascinating historical look at hard crime fiction. The three different styles are easily discernible and the overarching story that ties all three novels together is expertly written.
This was an amazing read and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in hard crime and wants to experience the styles of three iconic authors. This is Ariel Winter’s debut novel and it is an impressive piece of work. The book is released on August 7th, 2012.