The Twenty-Year Death
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime, August 2012
It’s a three in one deal and when I see something like that I can’t pass it up. Yep, three books in one giant-sized novel. Three murder mysteries that bring back the genre of early hard-boiled detectives, of desperate people taking desperate measures to save themselves or their loved ones. Winter has written a novel worthy enough to be included as part of the Hard Case Crime series.
The Twenty-Year Death is actually three separate murder mysteries tied together by two characters. The first story, “Malvineau Prison”, is set in 1931. Chief Inspector Pelleter is only visiting the small French town of Verargent to speak to a prisoner concerning violence against other inmates. However, when a corpse is found within the town limits, Pelleter is drawn into a complex murder mystery involving not only the prison, but Shem Rosenkrantz, a famous American writer and his wife Clothilde.
Jump ahead ten years to Hollywood and “The Falling Star”. Clothilde-now Chloe Rose-is an actress who is paranoid thinking someone is following her. Her husband, Shem, who is writing not only for the movies, but for a smut producer, has become an alcoholic. The movie studio’s head of security hires private detective Dennis Foster to discover if Chloe’s fears are justified. What he discovers is the dead body of Chloe’s costar and very important people willing to go to great lengths to keep secrets buried.
Move to 1951 and “Police At The Funeral”. Shem Rozencrantz, has-been writer, is struggling to recover from his alcoholism and hoping for an inheritance from his first wife to keep Clothilde safe in her asylum. When he gets into an argument with his son, the young man ends up dead. Shem is hounded by the police after he and his girlfriend try to cover up the accidental death.
At first I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this massive tome. Three stories that could just as well have been three separate novels instead of grouped together under one cover. Winter writes each with a different tone and voice. The first ends up being a straight mystery while the second is in the vein of the first person hard-boiled private eye looking at a world gone dirty. The third reminds me of the fifties and sixties short novelettes of one man with his back against the wall, trying to save himself from a circumstance gone out of his control. I ended up enjoying each story even though it took me awhile to finish the entire novel. This is something different but definitely worth reading.
Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, August 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.
Five Star, February 2012
A homicide detective’s life is never pretty or easy. There are always pressures from home and family and bean counters at work. There are even pressures within the ranks from other colleagues’ lives. Thus is the story of Joe Burgess of the Portland, Maine PD. A solid murder mystery with plenty of character driven action to keep you turning the pages.
Burgess just wants to spend time with his girlfriend and two kids they are thinking of fostering. However, his job keeps getting in the way. A weekend with the kids is interrupted by the murder of Burgess’ long time friend and war buddy Reggie Libby. Libby, never quite the same after the war, turned to alcohol and the street. So who would kill him? Suspects abound. His son, a shyster realtor, his ex-wife. Burgess’s struggles to find evidence in the case are another obstacle. A superior is urging him to cut out the extra manpower for what looks like an accidental drowning of a wino. Nobody seems to know Reggie’s mysterious new employment. Burgess’s friends on the street are too addled-minded to be of but scant assistance. Reggie’s son, Joey is nowhere to be found and the ex wife is a witch. The situation grows more tense as the days pass and the clues start to add up.
One of the things about homicide mysteries that keep them interesting are the subplots. Redemption has a couple of good ones, even though the latter is brought in late in the story. The story isn’t just focused on Burgess and the murder or his friend. His colleague has an ongoing problem with a woman and just doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Flora does a nice job of keeping me interested in the main plot, but also allowed me a breather by bringing in other action to enjoy.
Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.