Select one of the keywords
Hooked on Maigret
by Tim Davis, December 2007

Mystery aficionados rejoice! Penguin Books has been reissuing compact paperbacks of mysteries (in the elegant, French style) by one of the twentieth century's absolute masters: Georges Simenon. With several hundred books to his credit, the profusely prolific Belgium-born writer, the man with a colorful personal life, and the provocatively passionate 'man of 10,000 women' made his permanent mark in the history of mystery writing with his Maigret series (with 75 novels and 28 stories featuring the Parisian police detective). Now, the American publisher has been making Maigret available again to American readers. Here are three of the most recent offerings:

Inspector Cadaver opens with Superintendent Maigret on the train to the French countryside. As a favor to his friend, a Parisian magistrate, Maigret will look into the recent death of Albert Retailleau, a young man in the rural French community of Saint-Aubin; more particularly, Maigret will try to find out why the magistrate's innocent and irreproachable brother-in-law Etienne Naud is on the verge of being officially accused of killing young Albert. As a house-guest at Naud's home, Maigret begins making discreet inquiries in the small nearby town. And during the course of his informal investigation, Maigret finds himself constantly running into two problems: one is a former Parisian colleague (and a man of tarnished reputation who now works as a private detective), Justin Cavre (a.k.a. Inspector Cadaver); and the other problem is the astounding level of deceit and secrecy among many in Saint-Aubin, especially within Naud's own family. When Maigret finally discovers and exposes the truth, life for nearly everyone in the small French town - especially within the Naud family - will never be the same again.

In My Friend Maigret, Maigret travels to the tiny Mediterranean island of Porquerolles where Marcel Pacaud has been murdered (shortly after boasting of his friendship with the celebrated Parisian police detective). Accompanied by Mr. Pyke of Scotland Yard (sent over from the U.K. to learn about the famous Maigret's singular methods), Maigret begins the process of methodically interviewing the colorful assortment of odd characters who knew Pacaud on the island. Normally, as everyone insists, Porquerolles is an island without crime, but - as Maigret begins to suspect - the unfortunate Pacaud had made an extraordinary discovery about criminal activity that involved large sums of money. Apparently Pacaud was silenced by someone who wanted to keep his or her lucrative enterprise quiet and thriving. Now, though, Maigret is hot on the trail of someone with a very questionable background and a lot of blood on his (or her) hands.

Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard opens with a murder: Louis Thouret's body is discovered in an alleyway in Paris. Preliminary inquiries reveal that Thouret seems to have been wearing someone else's shoes and tie (according to the widow who identifies the body), and early investigation by Maigret discloses a more puzzling mystery: Thouret had lost his job at a party supply wholesaler three years earlier when the business shut down, but neither Thouret's wife nor his daughter (Monique) seem to have been aware of that fact since the Frenchmen went every morning on the train to work and returned every afternoon on the train at the end of his business day. So, thinks Maigret, what has Thouret been up to every weekday for the last three years? How has he managed to keep that secret (and other secrets) from his wife and daughter? Who was responsible for Thouret's murder, and is there some connection to his three-year secret? Of course, Maigret - 'one of the great moral detectives ... {the} master of the slow unfolding of the criminal mind' - will have little or no problem in getting to the bottom on things.

In all three Inspector Maigret mysteries, the bottom line is this: Georges Simenon 'created some of the most enduring and compelling works {of mystery fiction} of the twentieth century' and 'gave the modern crime novel its aspirations to seriousness ... and got the whole world hooked on Maigret.' So, do yourself a favor, find yourself copies of these three Simenon novels (and others in the exciting new series from Penguin Books), and then you too will be hooked on Maigret!
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.