The Twenty-Year Death ties together three separate crime novels over twenty years within one Hard Case Crime volume. The first story, Malniveau Prison, set in France 1931, opens with the gruesome discovery of a corpse in the gutter. The dead man was a former inmate of the local prison and soon, more bodies from the prison begin to appear. The police inspector is led to the dead man’s beautiful daughter Clotilde and her American writer husband Shem Rosenkrantz.
The couple are the focus of the next story, The Falling Star, set ten years later in America. Clotilde is now Chlöe Rose, an actress in Hollywood where Shem is now writing movies. Chlöe is plagued by paranoia of being followed and a private investigator is hired to keep her safe. But when a Hollywood starlet is brutally murdered, the PI finds himself embroiled in a bigger mystery.
Finally, in Police at the Funeral, washed up writer Shem Rosenkrantz tells his story as he desperately tries to hold his life together as it falls apart around him. Even though the stories are linked, they are all individual in their own styles and tales. It starts off quite detached in the telling and becomes more personal throughout.
I really enjoyed the portrayals of this time where men wear suits, the good guys and gangsters alike, and the women are feminine, dainty and delicate or sultry sirens. The old fashioned way the characters interact with each other, the language they use and the police procedures of the time all help to set the scene and immerse you into a gritty yet classy tale. There is plenty of murder, played out alongside betrayal and greed, but also love and desperation.
I've never really read anything like this before and for a debut novel this is an extremely well written, cleverly crafted story. Acclaimed by author giant Stephen King himself, this is an outstanding contribution to the world of crime fiction.