Penguin are reissuing all 75 of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels – in their original order and with new translations – at the rate of one a month. Mrs. Peabody will be reading them as they are published, and will provide mini-reviews and observations on this page. Please do feel free to join in!
1. Pietr the Latvian / Pietr-le-Letton , trans. by David Bellos, Nov. 2013
In which Maigret tracks international criminal ‘Pietr the Latvian’ here, there and everywhere, while trying to unravel his complex identity. A brilliant early example of Eurocrime, which betrays its 1930s origins through a negative depiction of Jewish characters. Full review available here. Interesting fact: Pietr the Latvian was first published in serial form in the magazine Ric et Rac.
2. The Late Monsieur Gallet / M. Gallet décédé , trans. by Anthea Bell, Dec. 2013
In which Maigret investigates the suspicious death of Monsieur Gallet in a hotel in Sancerre, and discovers that little is as it seems. Maigret’s investigative skills are fully tested in a case that explores identity, class … and criminality. Interesting fact: Monsieur Gallet was the first Maigret to be published in novel form, and was launched at a glamorous themed party whose invitations looked like police record cards.
Lizzie over at Lizzie’s Literary Life is planning to read the whole series as well. See her post on the first two novels here.
3. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien / Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien , trans. by Linda Coverdale, Jan 2014.
In which Maigret inadvertently commits a crime and uncovers a ten-year-old secret. A simple story, but brilliantly told, with Maigret crisscrossing Europe in search of the truth. An intriguing ending too, which raises questions about policing and justice. Interesting fact: the story is based in part on the author’s own youthful experiences while living in Liège in Belgium.
4. The Carter of La Providence / Le Charretier de la Providence , trans. by David Coward, Feb 2014.
In which Maigret investigates the death of a well-heeled woman in a stable near a canal. No one knows who she is or how she got there, and it’s up to Maigret to uncover her complex story. The investigation takes place almost entirely in the closed community of France’s canals and rivers, and sees Maigret show off his bicycling skills. Interesting fact: The novel was one of several written on Simenon’s boat the Ostrogoth.
5. The Yellow Dog / Le Chien Jeune , trans. by Linda Asher, March 2014.
In which Maigret investigates a shooting and a poisoning in the seaside town of Concarneau, while its citizens become increasingly unnerved by a strange yellow dog. This is one of the most famous Maigret novels, with good reason: the policeman is at his most perceptive and humane, and is not above bending the law for those who have been wronged. Interesting fact: this was the first Maigret novel to be adapted for film.
6. Night at the Crossroads / La Nuit du Carrefour , trans. by Linda Coverdale, April 2014.
In which Maigret investigates the murder of a Jewish trader at The Three Widows Crossroads outside Paris. A Danish aristocrat is suspected, but maintains his innocence during a seventeen-hour police interrogation. When Maigret travels to the small community, things get very strange indeed; like The Yellow Dog, this novel has a very unsettling feel. Interesting fact: the 1931 film adaption was directed by Jean Renoir.
7. A Crime in Holland / Un Crime en Hollande , trans. by Sian Reynolds, May 2014.
In which Maigret is summoned to the small Dutch town of Delfzijl when a French lecturer is suspected of murder, and faces the dual challenges of linguistic and cultural differences. While not overly impressed with the characterisation of the culprit, I liked Maigret’s astute psychological analysis of the identity of the victim and his ‘respectable’ community. Interesting fact: Simenon’s and Maigret’s motto is ‘understand and judge not’.
Note: A couple of things stand out for me at this stage. Firstly, Simenon was unbelievably prolific: six out of the seven novels above were published in 1931. Secondly, most of the investigations are set in small towns or isolated communities rather than in the big city of Paris, where Maigret is based. It will be interesting to see if this is still the case as the series evolves.
Some catching up to do on this list… More coming shortly!