Book Review: The Twenty-Year Death
The Twenty-Year Death is an innovative read for those looking to lose themselves in the mystery genre. Ariel S. Winter’s epic tale tells the story of a writer and his wife whose lives are torn apart, but tells it in the form of three separate novels, each set in a different decade (1931, 1941, 1951) and each written in a style inspired by a different giant of the mystery genre: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson. Still with me?
Each novel features its own plot, detectives, and final resolution. The interesting part is how the three are brought together with characters that appear in all three books. It couldn’t have been easy to write three different crime novels in such styles, but Winter pulled it off faithfully and originally.
Each novel also shares the presence of an alcoholic writer, Shem Rosenkrantz, who is pretty much a background character before taking a first person role in the last (and best) story. Here’s a breakdown of each novel:
MALNIVEAU PRISON (1931) – Set in France it revolves around the mysterious death of a prisoner—the father of Rosenkrantz’s wife. The search for the killer leads to a mysterious psychopath with a penchant for torturing tots, as well as a coverup.
THE FALLING STAR (1941) – Rosenkrantz’s wife, Chloë Rose, a successful but unstable starlet suspects she’s being followed. A PI is enlisted to help the troubled star, but is he being set up?
POLICE AT THE FUNERAL (1951) – Rose has been institutionalized, leaving Rosenkrantz with nothing but booze and self-pity. He’s a desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption.
The page count and genre may make it seem like a large undertaking, but I assure you it’s a pretty easy read with large print (hardcover edition). For those cold winter nights that may be coming your way in a few months, this would be a great read to have with a nice glass of Whiskey. It’s a lot of fun.
Writing three books with separate narratives but contain a sub-plot together can’t be easy, but Winter makes it look that way, color me impressed.
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