Review of 'The Twenty-Year Death: Malniveau Prison'

The Twenty-Year Death: Malniveau Prison by Ariel S. Winter

the_twenty_year_death_malniveau_prison.jpg In 1930s rural France a body is found lying in the gutter during a rainstorm. Despite being stabbed the clothing is undamaged but most mysterious of all is that it is the body of convict from the local prison yet no prisoners have been reported missing. Chief Inspector Pelleter is visiting the town to pay a visit to a reliable informant who is incarcerated there but picks up the investigation of this unusual case. The obstructive warden at the prison and his equally unhelpful assistant are not making his job easier nor is the unexpected discovery of five more bodies from the prison buried in a nearby farmers field…

This is part of a series of “Hard Case Crime” novels that appears to be evoking the pulp fiction style though this book does not really fall into this category to me. The fact that the book is set in the 1930s does not really play a key role other than simply being a setting. The characters all feel fairly contemporary acting only slightly in a period-specific manner. Here the story is the key with the quirky mystery to be solved and the unusual things that keep happening. I have to admit, the mystery is quite intriguing to me though the resolution slightly disappointing. The characters are fairly one-dimensional and we never really see any emotions other than than the extremes, they are just a vehicle for the story and never entirely engage (the women are particularly short-changed though perhaps this is intended to mirror the social mores of the time).

An easy, light read both in terms of length, character and story, but marginally entertaining. Hardly stunning writing but good enough and a bit of a page turner.

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2020-06-13

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Publication Date: 2014

ISBN: 9781781167939

Other reviewed books by Ariel S. Winter: