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Maigret    by Georges Simenon order for
by Georges Simenon
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2015 (1934)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In this new 2015 Penguin translation of a small masterpiece (first published in Le Jour in instalments from 20 February to 15 March 1934, and published in book form by Fayard in 1934), when the action of Maigret begins, the pipe-smoking retired policeman has been living with his wife in a rustic house 'that smelled of wood smoke and goat's milk' in Meung. However, he is suddenly thrown 'back in a world he had long since left behind.'

The problems begin when his nephew Philippe 'the tall, plump, auburn-haired boy with baby-pink skin' who has recently been employed in the same profession from which Maigret retired arrives in the middle of the night. Philippe explains: 'I'm going to tell you everything, Uncle. I'm in big trouble. If you don't help me, if you don't come to Paris with me, I don't know what will become of me. I'm going out of my mind.' On the verge of tears, the nephew continues: 'I bet I'll be arrested later ... Suddenly, there was a gunshot. He was dead.'

And what else does Maigret learn when he returns to Paris with Philippe? The dead man was a petty criminal with connection to many more criminals; a witness of questionable pedigree has identified Philippe as the killer, the too eager police authorities will soon arrest the frightened nephew, and Maigret even though he is retired will work occasionally with and sometimes against his former colleagues but mostly by himself to exonerate Philippe.

Before the exciting adventure ends, Maigret, confronting some of the most dangerous criminals in Paris, will be 'in danger of dying a stupid and horrible death ... lying in the dirt, severely wounded, and howling with pain for hours before anyone would come to his aid.' But, it would be 'too late to turn back.' Yes, in spite of the dangers, Maigret 'big, broad, and heavy' - will persist until the very end of the case because of two simple motivations: (1) family responsibilities; and (2) 'I cannot stand cretins!'

Well, that should whet your appetite for more from Simenon's Maigret. Read this great crime novella, 140-pages of excitement and complications, and you (like me) will agree with Muriel Spark's assessment of the author: 'A truly wonderful writer ... marvelously readable lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the word he creates.'

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