Like many of the early Simenon’s this book is more an exploration of the atmosphere and culture of a small European town than it is about the solvingLike many of the early Simenon’s this book is more an exploration of the atmosphere and culture of a small European town than it is about the solving of a crime. As the reader finds out late in the book, Maigret’s apparent passivity in the early part of the story was due not to confusion but rather was a conscious choice. One wonders if Simenon consciously created a story in which the reader would feel the same frustration with Maigret as did many of his critics in the story. When Maigret reveals in the final chapters that he knew exactly what he was doing at the very moments that others were most unsure of his competence the reader may feel that they have fallen into the same trap. One may imagine that Simenon enjoyed knowing that the reader, who felt such joy at feeling superior to the petty provincial officials would be suddenly forced to realize just how much like them she was.
The denouement is both depressing and uplifting. The reader is aware that nothing that Maigret does, indeed nothing Maigret could do, would change the enormous inequities and inequalities of the world Simenon was writing about. Yet those who Maigret considered truly guilty did pay for their crimes and those who Maigret considered the true victims are allowed to escape and make a reasonable life for themselves. It is, perhaps, only after the reader has closed the book for the last time that they realize that Simenon has once again used Maigret, a character who supposedly stands for justice and order, to provide a cutting critic of the social order he is tasked with upholding. ...more
It is hard to remember when reading this first of many Maigret novels and stories that it was published the year after Van Dine’s The Scarab Murder CaIt is hard to remember when reading this first of many Maigret novels and stories that it was published the year after Van Dine’s The Scarab Murder Case, the year before Queen’s The Dutch Shoe Murder and the same year as Christie’s The Sittaford Mystery. In some ways the closest equivalent to the world Simenon introduces us to is the San Francisco we get glimpses of Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon. Maigret is both like and unlike Sam Spade. Like Spade he is aware of, and not discomfited by, the underside of life yet unlike Spade one never wonders about his fundamental honesty and respect for other human beings.
As Simenon describes them, Maigret and the other members of the Parisian police force are ordinary people who have to fill out forms to justify the money they spend, who get colds when they stand around for hours in the rain and who are neither corrupt, nor stupid nor brilliant. And instead of lauding his detective as a special master of ratiocination or incomparably skilled at analyzing the psychology of people just met Simenon describes Maigret’s method as follows:
“Maigret used the same procedure as anyone else. And like everyone else he employed the wonderful techniques devised by Bertillon, Reiss, Locard, and others, which have turned police work into a science. But above all he sought for, waited for, and pounced on the chink. In other words, the moment when the human being showed through the gambler.”
In other words Maigret, in addition to using the scientific tools available to the police patiently waits for the moment when he can see the human being behind criminal. And in order to do this Maigret must to some degree get inside the skin of the people he is observing rather than standing outside of them judging, measuring and categorizing.
It is this quality of Maigret that allows the reader to read past the prejudices and stereotypes of the time (and Maigret and Simenon) because they are leavened by Maigret’s embrace of the humanity of the many outcasts, low-lifes, and criminals he meets. Indeed the people that Maigret is contemptuous of is the rich, the greedy, and the politically powerful. In short, Simenon’s awareness of the realities of class, education and power keeps him, or the reader, from seeing the rest of humanity only through the eyes of the privileged....more
A comparatively disappointing outing for Maigret after the high quality of the last two books. Simenon continues his exploration of Paris life but inA comparatively disappointing outing for Maigret after the high quality of the last two books. Simenon continues his exploration of Paris life but in a manner less convincing, or compelling than his recently published books. The conceit behind the opening two chapters of the book is surprising and the reader looks forward to a fresh insight in the ways in which Maigret himself, as opposed to the system in which he works, comes to conclusions as to guilt and innocence. Unfortunately that opening promises more than the book delivers.
Like almost all Simenons this book is worth reading if only for the detailed and loving portrait of the different ways that Parisians of different classes live their lives although it does not rate among the “must reads” or even more so, the “must rereads” of the Maigret books....more
While this is one of this reviewer’s favourite Maigret novels it is not a book that she would recommend for the reader who was looking for a really goWhile this is one of this reviewer’s favourite Maigret novels it is not a book that she would recommend for the reader who was looking for a really good, straightforweard police procedural. As he is investigating the death of Monsieur Gallet Maigret does go through the routines of police detectives at that time but all the while Maigret is seeking to understand the man as much as he trying to solve the crime. In the end justice is both served and not served. The reader is left with a deep understanding of what led to the crime and left to come to their own conclusions about the way Maigret chooses to deal with his discoveries. One might argue that this book demonstrates that the compassion that arises from truly understanding another human being has little to do with conventional legal or moral justice....more
Simenon packs an amazingly diverse number of characters and settings into this story that begins with Maigret noticing the strange behaviour of anotheSimenon packs an amazingly diverse number of characters and settings into this story that begins with Maigret noticing the strange behaviour of another man in a cafe. The rest of the book follows Maigret’s attempts to understand this man’s actions. The writing of many authors have, by the fourth book in a series, already begun to show evidence of falling into a rut. With Simenon, however, one sees how a writer can return to the same character time and again without having the stories themselves become predictable. Maigret’s job is to investigate crimes and Maigret is good at that because he finds almost all people and situations interesting. The crimes may be large or small. The people may be rich or poor. The actions may have large scale reverberations or they may be hardly visible to all but those most closely involved.
Thus, this particular “adventure” begins with Maigret wondering why one man is acting in such a strange manner and ends with him learning the darkest secrets that have been eating away at group of friends over almost a decade. Maigret’s choice of how to deal with this knowledge tells the reader much about Maigret himself and indeed much about the nature of French and Belgian culture in the decades leading up to the Second World War....more