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Georges Simenon - Some of The Inspector Maigret books



This series of books is one of those covered in Following the Detectives - real locations in Crime Fiction,     - q.v.



I like to read a wide variety of crime fiction, but some writers are so prolific that I simply don't have the time to read all their books. This is especially true with Georges Simenon and the Inspector Maigret books where there are about 75 books, and about 38 short stories. That said though, many of the books are really novellos - stories about 80 pages long. Anyway, chancing upon a book in the Heinemann / Octopus Library series which contained a selection of 10 Maigret books, I jumped at the opportunity to sample Maigret / Simenon. I later discovered my mistake. Yes, there were 10 Simenon stories, but only six were Maigret ones. I'll need to rethink. I guess the Maigret books in their the Paris setting of the 1930s onwards are almost as famous at the Sherlock Holmes books in their Victorian London setting.

Georges Simenon was born, not in France, but in Belgium in 1903. He wrote some 500 books / novellos and numerous short stories, of which the Maigret books are the most famous. He had a rather modest, convential start in life - nursery school at 3, primary school from 1908 to 1914, and finally a jesuit high school secondary education from 1914 to 1918. He then used his father's illness and debtedness as an excuse, dropped out of school without taking his final exams, and grabbed a number of short term jobs. His life changed in 1919, when working for a newspaper , he got the chance broaden his horizons, dabble in politics, mix with lords to prostitutes, to see the seamier parts of town but also cover crime stories. He developed the journalist's skill of writing fast and accurately. His first novel was published in 1921 under the pseudonym of "Georges Sim". He met his wife Regine and then, after his father's death in 1922, he and Regine moved to Paris. All their children would be baptized as catholics, but Simenon was not really religious, and he had numerous affairs and later boasted of having had sex with over 10,000 women ! Whilst boating in the Netherlands, he wrote his first Maigret book which was published in 1931. He lived in the country during the second world war and there are suggestions by the French that he was as a german collaborator.

He escaped France in 1945, and lived in the United States and Canada from 1945 to 1955 where he learned to speak English. He divorced in 1949, and married his young secretary in Nevada in 1950 ! He returned to Europe from 1955 to 1989, living mostly in France, but then Switzerland. He separated from his second wife in 1964, but then lived with his young housekeeper Teresa until his death in 1989. All in all a hectic, eventful full life.

His most famous creation was the raincoat wearing, beer and cider drinking, pipe smoking Inspector Maigret. Jules Maigret and his wife Louise were happily married, but childless, and lived in a flat at 132, Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Maigret's office was on the banks of the Seine at 36 Quai des Orfevres, the headquarters of a section of the Parisian Police. Maigret is described as a large, broad shouldered man - gruff, but patient and fair. His colleagues included Sgt/Inspector Lucas, Janvier, Lapointe and R Torrence.






A Man's Head.    (1931)


I read this book in August, 2019.

I first started reading Maigret stories in a Simenon Omnibus, and soon found out that not all Simenon stories feature Maigret. I then read all the true Maigret stories in the omnibus, liked them, and decided to look out for other Maigret adventures. When I found "A Man's Head" I did not realise at the time that it was one of the earliest books. So, to be brief, this book is early in the Maigret series, but not early in my Maigret reading. Usually I like to read book series in the correct sequence.

"A Man's Head" is a strange story that I liked to begin with, then got fed up with, and finally ended up liking the bittersweet ending. It is a novello originally published in a book called "The Patience of Maigret". That is a better title.

The book opens with the death / murder of a rich American widow and her maid. I seems Joseph Heurtin did the deed, and left lots of damming evidence. He claims to be innocent, but will say no more in his defence. Maigret thinks he is either mad or innocent, but the court finds him guilty, and he is on death row.

Maigret is unsettled by the case - he thinks there is a lot more to the story, and he decides to go out on a limb to find out. He persuades the examining magistrate and the chief of justice to allow him to arrange for Heurtin to escape from jail. Maigret's man will follow Heurtin and never let him out of sight. But of course this proves impossible, and Maigret is now in trouble, and has to offer to resign if he cannot solve the case / find the true murderer in 10 days. A live time of service is at risk.

Backtracking in his search for the now missing Heurtin Maigret discovers a mysterious Czech called Radek. He is a penniless former medical student . His old mother used to scrub stairs and work as a cleaner to send money to Radek, but she died, and Radek had to abandon his medical studies. He never once considered getting a part time job himself ! Now he sits for hours nursing a cup of coffee, studying and closely observing those a lot better off. In particular he has developed a dislike for a socialite William Kirby, who has both a beautiful wife and mistress, and leads a life of privelege on credit.

So far so good. We now come to an apparently perfect crime devised by the scheming Radek. Although it all works perfectly, stupidly Radek wants credit for committing his perfect crime, and so starts dropping hints to the investigating Maigret. Maigret refuses to play ball with Radek, and so we embark upon a game of patience to be played over eight days.

I won't say more about the story, but against all the odds (in true life but not fictional crime series ) Maigret is still a policeman at the end, and those who sought to dismiss him are are now thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

It's not a great Maigret story, but it's clever enough, with lots of good writing, and all is explained in the end. Overall though, it left me somewhat unimpressed.






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Maigret Goes Home.    (1931)


I read this book in October, 2020.

This is the first book in a Maigret Omnibus of six stories which I bought in 2020 - previously I had mistakenly bought a Simenon Omnibus, forgetting that he wrote many books apart from the Maigret series.

The story is as per the title. Local country police get a note saying a crime will take place during first mass on All Soul's Day in the church at Saint-Fiacre, Matignon, Moulins. They think it is a hoax, but nevertheless still send the note to headquarters in Paris where it sits ignored in an in tray until spotted by a passing Chief Inspector Maigret. Of course he cannot but take an interest for this was where he was born, where his father was steward to the Compte de Saint-Fiacre for 30 years, and his father lies buried in the churchyard of that very church. The book is very atmospheric of rural France in the 1930's. Maigret books into the local inn where he recognises the inn keeper Maria Tatin, someone he remembers from his childhood, but she does not recognise him. Maigret is now 42, and has not been near the place since his father's death, many, many years ago. He recognises several other people from the village, but no one recognises him - I thought this was strange as surely the village would be proud of a son who grew up to be a famous french detective.

Maigret's room is cold and lit by candles. M. Tatin knocks at the bedroom door at 5:30 in the morning. First bell for first mass has been sounded, and Maigret rushes to get ready, and joins M. Tatin as she goes to the church service. She feels awkward walking along the road with a man. Not many are in the church, but the widow of the late Compte turns up - the Comptesse de Saint-Fiacre, elegant when Maigret lived there, but now an old woman. The service proceeds, all as normal, most take communion, and it is all nearly over. It surely was a hoax - how can a crime take place in a quiet church in open view ? But the Comptesse remains bent in prayer at the end, and has died apparently of a heart attack. But how could someone predict the exact time of a heart attack - could it be a crime after all?

Maigret investigates and is dismayed to discover all the changes from the time of his childhood when his father was steward. The chateau de Saint-Fiacre was bare with anything of value sold years ago. The Comptesse lived in denial, still writing cheques that the bank knew to return. She was a lonely old woman who had employed a "toyboy" young man as secretary / lover. She sinned with her lover, was ashamed of herself, confessed her sins at confessional in the local church, but still kept Jean Metayer on as her "secretary" and kept on sinning. The Comptesse's son, Maurice, leads a dissolute life in Paris, and only approaches his mother to beg her for money to settle his ongoing debts. He had recently asked her for 40,000 francs - apparently she had turned him down, so he is now back in the village to plead for the money, or he will be disgraced when his cheque bounces when presented to the bank.

Maigret discovers that the Comptesse had suffered her heart attack from shock when she found what appeared to be a newspaper clipping in her prayer book. This said that her son had committed suicide ashamed of his mother life style. Not the most convincing / reliable of murder weapons I thought, but let it pass. It must be a crime to cause someones death, but leaving a note in a prayer book is not a crime within the jurisdiction of the law. However Maigret continues his investigation. We now meet the rest of the characters. Who put the note into the prayer book? There are six possible suspects all with a motive. The new steward is Monsieur Gautier, and he has a son Emil who works at the bank. Emil was the Comptesse's former lover. Jean Metayer (30) is the current lover, living a high life on the dwindling estate funds. The Comptesse's son Maurice, denied his 40,000 francs bail out, is the obvious chief suspect. He has turned up with his mistress Marie Vassilief. Also on the scene are the local doctor, and the new young local priest who may know more than he can say, but is bound by the sacred confidentiality of the confessional. Jean Metayer leaves the chateau and also books a room at Maria Tatin's inn, but when Maigret goes to interrogate him, he calls in a lawyer.

Eventually it is Maurice who gathers everyone together and so we have quite a climax when we discover the murderer, but there is a surprise twist. The story was OK, but I liked the book more as an excellent depiction of rural poverty and life in 1930s France. And there was a bitter sweet irony in Maigret returning to the place of his childhood, but finding everything had gone down hill so much. Saddest of all, his father's gravestone was black and neglected - Maigret had never visited.






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The Friend of Madame Maigret.    (1949)


I read this book in December, 2018.

I started reading Maigret stories with seven from a Simenon Omnibus, but stupidly took quite a while to appreciate that it was a Simenon omnibus, and not all Simenon stories are about Chief Inspector Maigret. I did enjoy the Maigret stories, though, and wanted to read more. Thus I decided to concentrate on stories with Maigret in the book title, and the first of these books that I came across was this one, one of the earlier stories. Sadly it didn't hold my interest to the very end, but it started well, and as always was an excellent evocation of the Paris of the period. Most of the familiar Maigret crew are there, and I continue to be surprised at the police life style depicted here. It seems to be constant drinking, even when on duty, and typically Maigret, en route to investigate some crime scene, or question some witness, will pop into a bar for a wine or aperitif on the way. Most of the members of his team act similarly, and no one bats an eyelid.

The book opens with two sub plots unfolding at the same time. Firstly Maigret has got bogged down with the sensational Stuevals case involving a highly respected Flemish Paris bookbinder who has been accused of killing someone, and disposing of the body in the furnace to his flat. The police had had an anonomous tip off, did find human teeth in the furnace, and a blood stained blue suit in Mr Steuvals wardrobe. Steuvals denies all knowledge and his wife Fernande says she and Steuvals were seldom apart, and she saw nothing. Steuvals has a young, but ambitious lawyer Philippe Liotard defending him, and he calls daily press conferences to attack Maigret's handling of the case against his innocent client. Secondly we hear a strange tale concerning Madame Maigret. She was undergoing a series of dental treatments, and arriving early for the weekly appointments had got into the habit of sitting on a bench in a nearby park where she had met a young woman with a two year old toddler. They seemed foreign, but the woman was expensively dressed and spoke good French. One day the woman thrust the boy into Madame Maigret's arms, and rushed off asking Md. Maigret to look after the boy, and that she would be back soon, and explain. She is not back soon, and Madame Maigret has to stay in the park, and miss her dental appointment. Eventually the woman turns up as a passenger in a taxi, grabs the boy, and says again she will explain later. Madame Maigret is upset, and asks her husband to see if he can make sense of it all.

And so we have two apparent separate plots which of course turn out to be related, and this gives Maigret the vital break through he so desperately needs. All of this I thought was great, but then the pace of the story dropped, and my interest sagged somewhat. It all turned out to make sense in the end but we had to have everything explained to us via Maigret's concluding explanation to the investigating judge. I could not believe how Maigret could possibly have worked it out out. I like a series of clues to solve, and the mystery to be revealed by logic, or luck, or whatever.

All in all, an interesting story in that it features Maigret, his wife, his team, and a Paris setting, and I didn't mind the slow pace, but I didn't care for the second half of the book, nor the ending. Yes there was more than one murder, and the murderers were eventually brought to justice, but it took 4 years for normal police procedure to get everyone, and Maigret just mentions this as a throw away line at the end. A true to life ending, but not very exciting.






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Maigret's Memoirs.    (1950)


I read this book in January, 2018.

This is probably about book 35 in the series of roughly 75 Inspector Maigret books, but for me it was book one of the ten book compilation I was reading, and not altogether a sensible starting point. I enjoyed reading the book but really I should have started with a more typical Maigret outing. Here we are presented with Inspector Maigret as a real person taking issue with his biographer Georges Simenon - just as Sherlock Holmes takes issue with his biographer Dr Watson. Maigret thinks that Simenon has got so many things wrong that he been driven to write a rebuttal - "Maigret's Memoirs" - to put things right. And yet strangely he ends up coming to the conclusion that Simenon has probably got it about right after all.

We do get a very good picture of life in Paris and Maigret's position as a policeman there. We are told of Maigret's childhood - of his farmer grandad, of his estate manager father, of the death of his mother when he was about 9, and of his being brought up by a childless aunt and uncle who treated him as their son. His parents' local doctor was an alcoholic who was drunk and allowed one of the village mothers-to-be to die in childbirth. Maigret's father gave the doctor, a personal friend, support and the benefit of the doubt, and called him in when his own wife went into labour. And so Maigret's mother died along with the brother or sister Maigret would never have. Maigret had a good education, and eventually was a student at medical school, but he didn't like the life, jumped, and decided to be a policeman. Initially Maigret had no money, and Maigret was a policeman in uniform walking the streets of Paris with hob nailed boots that leaked. He had great empathy for fellow street walkers such as the prostitutes on the street corners - equally cold and miserable, soaked and wet through. This was a time when few policeman had more than a primary school education. Maigret was befriended by a police friend of his fathers, and promoted to be a detective. As part of his training he rotated through all the police divisions - hotels section, vice, etc, etc - getting to know the criminal underclass of Paris. And eventually we get a very, very experienced police officer who has learned his trade over 20, 30 years, and who knows all the pickpockets by name, all the criminals, which one is hard up and likely to steal again, and who is likely to be behind some latest crime. This says Maigret is the real humdrum policeman's life, not the quirky cases highlighted by Simenon.

There is quite a humerous section when young Maigret meets an ex medical student friend of his, who drags him along to a party held by the Highways and Bridges municipal employees - most of whom have worked there for many generations. How could Maigret aspire to be a policeman when such an alternative vocation might be possible ? The point of the story however, is that this is where young, tongue tied Maigret meets the love of his life Louise. He has been seeing her for some while when eventually Louise's aunt and uncle accost the very shy Maigret and ask if his intentions are honourable. And so we get the marriage proposal that Maigret might never have plucked up the courage to make. Louise and Maigret eventually set up home in a flat at 132, Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Theirs is a happy, successful long marriage, and Maigret lives a contented home life - he is not the modern troubled, divorced, challenged detective of later crime fiction series.

As a young detective Maigret is called into the police chief's office to meet a young journalist - Georges Sim. This gentleman is to write some police stories and is to be given every assistance. Sim alights on Maigret and a few of his colleagues, and writes a sequence of police stories where Maigret seems to do all the work and is the hero. Soon Sim is using his full name of Simenon, the fictional Maigret is famous, and even stars on TV at home and away. Maiget muses how his fictional alter ego seems to be old, and then young again, fat, and then thin. He even starts speaking English ! (Incidentlly I thought the best Maigret actor was Rupert Davies in the British black and white TV series, but I do like the modern Rowan Atkinson version too). Maigret often takes his friend Simenon to task for getting so many things wrong, but Simenon defends his corner. He knows that a murder enquiry may have 50 officers working on it, and that it is not really Maigret who hides on a street corner to watch the light in some bedroom go off, but to give the complete picture would just add complications. Maigret decides on the actions to be followed, and Simenon just simplifies things - and in so doing provides a better truth than the literal one. Louise Maigret is a great friend of Georges, and likes the picture he paints of Louise. And so, the real Jules Maigret and the writer Georges Simenon become old friends. Simenon even grows more and more like Maigret as the years advance. Of course he does - as Maigret writes this book, he and Georges Simenon are the same person.

All in all, then, not a typical police adventure for Inspector Maigret but a fascinating peek behind the scenes, and background into the private life of the famous detective, and of day to day life in the then current Paris. Again, echoing Sherlock Holmes, Maigret and Simenon belong to an old Paris now much changed, just as modern London has changed from Holmes's Victorian times. In short, I really enjoyed reading this book.






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Maigret Takes A Room.    (1951)


I read this book in February, 2018.

This is probably about book 42 in Georges Simenon's Chief Inspector Maigret series set, in this case, in 1950s Paris. It is the second of ten books in the Maigret compendium that I am reading. Of course I am trying to read the books in date order, but it's not often easy to put a date to these works. Sometimes the author helpfully ends each book with a place and time of writing identification, sometimes I am picking up the date of first publication under the French title, and sometimes I am reading a later English translation where the translator has given the book a new title and it's not on original lists. Anyway, I am doing my best to read them in order. This story is 83 pages long.

"Maigret Takes a Room" is quite a slow paced book - it's as if Maigret is out of sorts and can't get going. Madame Maigret has left Paris to tend to a sick sister, and Maigret has been left to look after himself. He hates going home to an empty flat - no light on under the door as he approaches, no food cooked and ready, just a big empty flat for him to get lost in. The story is really two stories in one. The first story causes the second. Firstly there had been a raid on a night club by two masked men. The girl on the cloakroom recognised and identified one of the raiders, a student named Paulus, and the police have traced Paulus to a back street guesthouse run by a fat older woman Mademoiselle Clement who behaves like a teenager and flirts with her guests. Paulus seems to have vanished, so Xavier is given the case by Maigret and left to get on with it. The second story starts with news that someone has shot Xavier. It's serious - a bullet in the lung just missed the heart - but Xavier will recover in hospital. It's assumed that Paulus shot Xavier. Maigret takes over the case, and rather that stay in his empty flat, he moves into Madam. Clement's guest house. There he digs very deeply into all the guests, and all the neighbours - taking days and days to interview them over and over again. He can't explain to himself why he is bothering with such detail.

Maigret finds Paulus, and the second robber, but it is obvious that neither shot Xavier. And so the story is who shot Xavier, and why. Eventually it just seems wierd that a Chief Inspector has abandoned his office and home, and is conducting business from a back street guest house, and a local bar where he is now a regular patron. And why are we being given all this detail when nothing else seems to be happening. Eventually of course Maigret gets a clue, changes gear, solves the mystery, and arrests Xavier's assailant.

It's only 80 odd pages, very atmospheric, an OK sort of tale. I'm not sure yet just how much I will end up enjoying these Maigret stories - we will need to wait and see. But it is different and distinctive, and so I read on.






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Maigret and the Burglar's Wife.    (1951)


I read this book in April, 2018.

This is probably about book 43 in Georges Simenon's Chief Inspector Maigret series. It is the third of ten books in the Maigret compendium that I am reading, and I am doing my best to read them in the correct order. This is another novella size story, about 90 pages long.

I am quite getting into these Maigret stories - very evocative of Paris in the 1950s, slow paced and full of atmosphere. In this story it is blisteringly hot in central Paris, and Maigret is in his office with half his team away on holiday at some seaside resort. He is lazily watching a wasp buzzing around the ceiling, colliding with the same spot over and over again. Someone has come to see him - a former prostitute he arrested when he was a young copper. He remembered her because she wouldn't come quietly, but took off all her clothes,and refused to get dressed again. There is a joke here that later in the story he calls at her flat, and she answers the door in her underwear, but this time rushes to put on a dressing gown. "I am doing you a favour - it is no longer a pretty sight." She tells him that her husband is "Sad Freddie" - a former locksmith who now goes out on his bike to rob the safes he installed years ago. He is silent, and skilful, but always unlucky. Anyway, Freddie has phoned his wife from the railway station. His latest robbery has gone wrong once again - on robbing the safe and shining his torch around the room he spots a dead woman's body. He flees the scene, but his wife wants the police to know two things - there has been a murder, but Freddie did not do it.

From clues, eventually Maigret finds the probable scene of the alleged crime - the house of a dentist Monsieur Serre who lives with his aged mother, and whose wife has just recently left him. Serre and his mother assure Maigret there has been no burglary, no broken window ( apart from one last week in the thunder storm), and certainly no body. So does Maigret believe the former prostitute, and or the dentist and his mother ?

Maigret goes along with the murder inquiry, and asigns lots of investigative tasks to his depleted team. But life goes on for Maigret, he goes home to his wife, they go out for an evening stroll and enjoy a drink in the pub, etc, etc. Generally everyone smokes a lot, and everyone drinks on duty - Maigret even stands his taxi driver a wine and Vichy water, with obviously no drink and drive laws to worry about.

There is not a lot of action, but the story gradually unfolds. Perhaps the dentist is not the murderer ? I thought it was a terrific little story - short but sweet.






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The Brothers Rico.    (1952)


I read this book in June, 2018.

I started reading what I thought was the fourth Maigret story in my 10 book Maigret Omnibus, and wondered firstly at the US setting and then started to wonder when Maigret was going to make an appearance. Then the penny dropped. It was an Omnibus of ten Simenon stories, but only six were Maigret ones. Silly of me, really. Although "The Brothers Rico" was an excellent, very well written story which I enjoyed, the idea was to read Maigret stories. I don't think I will bother reading the rest of the non Maigret ones - I will need to have a rethink.

Georges Simenon is an excellent writer, and here he pens a story that delivers on all sorts of levels. The Brothers Rico are three brothers who work for the American mafia - the Organisation. The story is told from the view point of the eldest - Eddie. He has played it straight with the Organisation all his life, respectful, obedient and been very successful in rackets on the West Coast of Florida. He has earned his bosses a lot of money, and is a respected local businessman in West Florida. He is happily married, and has three girls. He is affluent, and a sharp dresser. Life is good. Then he is summoned to Brooklyn by people above him in the mafia rankings. His brother Tony has disappeared, but had married Nora, told her of his life in the mafia, Nora had told her brother and that brother had gone to the police. Tony knew too much, and so would be - had to be - eliminated. Eddie knew this, it was inevitable, but how it was done and what was to be Eddie's role in his brother's death is what the story is about. There is tension and sadness, and splitting of family ties - and a testing of Eddies's loyalty.

It was so good a story that I kept reading to the end - long after I realised that it was not a Maigret story. But, as I said, that is not the point. It's not part of the Maigret canon, and should not be here.






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Maigret and the Headless Corpse.    (1955)


I read this book in January, 2020.

This is about book 48 in Georges Simenon's Chief Superintendent Jules Maigret crime series set and steeped in Paris. This book is typical of the series - it's slow paced, atmospheric, and although there is a crime to solve, this almost seems secondary. Maigret wants to understand the characters of the suspects, and why would they do such a thing as kill someone. Inspectors Lucas, and Janvier, are mentioned in the background, but it's young Lapointe who keeps Maigret company in this tale.

The story opens with a lot of police detail that has little to do with the story proper, but does add realism. We meet the two Naud brothers married to twin sisters who live and work on a barge on the Seine. Unusually, the barge is overloaded with gravel and sits very low in the water. Early the next morning, it's difficult to get the boat moving again - the propellor churns up mud, and then gets fowled on some obstacle. The brothers use grappling irons and prods to try to release the propellor, and eventually succeed, but the debris they fish up is a human arm, wrapped in paper and tied up with string. The police are called, and so Maigret takes charge. A diver finds other such packages - most of the severed body parts, but not the head. Hence the title "Headless Corpse". It will be very difficult to identify the murder victim without the head. Quite a crowd gather to watch all the goings on and catch sight of the famous Maigret. A young message boy is paying particular attention. We later find his name is Antoine Listin. This is the 1950's with no mobile phones, and so Maigret wanders off to find a telephone. There is one in the nearest bar, but it is too public. Maigret wanders on further, and finds one in a dingy basement cafe bar bistro run by a husband and wife, Omer Calas and Madame Aline Calas. There is no sign of Omer, but Aline is there, almost indifferent to Maigret's presence. She is a strange creature, blank, emotionless who speaks when spoken to, but is the opposite of welcoming. Omer left the previous weekend on his regular visit to the country to buy wine for the pub. He has not yet returned. In brief, he will never return - by pure luck the pub/ cafe Maigret has chanced upon may hold the answer to the case of the "headless corpse".

Omer is / was a coarse, rough oaf. He and Aline seemed to live separate lives, with the bar of the pub their living room. Omer went out every afternoon leaving Aline to herself. Aline and the pub had many regulars. Often Aline would go off into the kitchen to top herself up with a swig of brandy from an always available bottle. Aline was known and hated by the local prostitutes - she never charged for her favours. Young Antoine was her lover, and another was an older pub regular, red haired Dieudonne Pape who worked for a local haulier company. Maigret keeps returning to the pub. For a long time there is no evidence whatsoever that Omer is the "headless corpse", but Maigret is fascinated by Aline and keeps turning up with lots of questions. And so the tale unfolds.........

The examining magistrate is pedantic judge Comeliau, and he and Maigret do not get on. The judge is suspicious of Maigret's methods, and Maigret has to constantly watch his back. Jules Maigret is the most considerate of men. When the pub cat is left alone and unfed he makes immediate arrangements for its welfare, but yet, at the very end of the book, when Aline asks the judge if Maigret has someone looking after her cat, he says don't be silly, a chief superintendent is far too busy for that. Maigret never forgives the judge for that.






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Maigret Sets a Trap.    (1955)


I read this book in February, 2021.

This is the 49th book in George Simenon's atmospheric Maigret series set in Paris in the 1950s. It's also the 4th book in the six book omnibus that I am reading. Once again we meet Superintendent Jules Maigret, Inspector Janvier, Lapointe, Lucas, Torrence, and a new member of the team - Mauvoisin. The examining magistrate is again Commeliau. I remembered this story from an excellent recent TV series with Maigret captured definitively by Rowan Atkinson - one of the best ever Maigrets, I think. This story is the perfect Maigret story with the now famous Superintendent under great pressure to find the Montmarte killer - five women victims in six months. The police hunt for the killer has been meticulous, faultless and exhaustive - just about everything that anyone could think had been been considered, with nothing overlooked, and massive manpower employed, but no clues and no suspects.

The book opens on August 4th in Paris, and it's steamingly hot. Apparently Maigret has a suspect at last, and is grilling a man late into the night at Police HQ in the Quai Des Orfreves, with the press camped outside in the corridor baying for news. But its a feint, a trap. The previous Friday, the Maigrets had dined with Dr Pardon and his wife, and Maigret had met another famous man - Prof. Tissot of the local mental hospital. Tissot had studied the case, but all the points he raised had been considered by the police. However conversation continued into the night and somehow an idea emerged. Was the killer driven by a sort of wounded pride, and how would he react if someone else was arrested and claimed his credit? Montmarte is swamped by plain clothes detectives, and various police women decoys, each trained in self defence, wander the streets late after dark. Sure enough the killer does strike, but amazingly he manages to escape. The police woman victim is unharmed, but happily managed to pull a button and some cloth from the killer's suit. It was an unusual button and cloth, soon traced to the cloth importer who gave a list of 40 tailors for the button, and ten for the cloth. Of these a Polish tailor told the police he had supplied such a suit to a local man - a Marcel Morcin. Lapointe found his house, left a police guard, and called Maigret who rushed over.

Marcel was a sort of well off professional man - an unqualified architect and decorator - married to a very cool and self possessed wife Yvonne Morcin. Marcel was born and raised in Montmatre, his father a butcher now dead, and a mother still alive and devoted to Marcel. There is no love lost between the mother and the wife. Marcel says was in all night and his wife and the maid confirm this. Yes, he did have such a suit, but it got a cigarette burn at a bus queue, and, fussy about his appearance, he had given the suit away to a tramp some days ago. Maigret is not fooled, but has he got the right man ? How can he break Marcel Morcin? Can he somehow get to understand the man and his motives?

Marcel is charged, Maigret goes home, but is wakened at night. There has been another and similar murder. I will not spoil the story any more, but it's a beautiful ending - a reward for Maigret's patience. It's a little gem of a story well worth reading.






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Maigret in Court.    (1959)

I read this book in Sept, 2018.

I started reading the Maigret stories in a Simenon omnibus, really liked them, and decided to read a few more. Mindful of my mistake with the omnibus (not all Simenon stories are Maigret ones), I have picked several further Simenon stories, but only ones with Maigret in the title. This book is about number 56 in the list of Maigret stories, and it's one where Maigret is 53, and two years away from compulsory retirement at 55. He and Madame Maigret like to holiday in a nice rural part of France, and when there on a short break, they fall in love with an old rectory, and buy it. So this is to be the retirement home, where Maigret will relax, sleep in the garden, or do some fishing. We shall see if and when this comes about.

Perhaps because he is contemplating retirement, it is a very subdued Maigret that we meet in this book. He seems almost in a dream. Already he thinks he can't stand the old office, doing the old things, trying to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" in court, and following the ritual of court appearances. In this story an old lady and the little girl she was minding were both murdered, and money stolen from the old lady. It's a notorious case in all the newspapers and eventually her nephew, a self employed picture framer by the name of Meurant, spots the story and approaches Maigret to introduce himself. He is a very quiet, timid sort of person, and Maigret dismisses him as a possible murderer, although the nephew did visit the old lady, did borrow money from her, and knew where she hid her money. A few days later there is an anonomous tip off telling Maigret to look in Meurant's wardrobe at his best blue suit - where they will find blood stains. They look, they find the stains, and the nephew is now the chief suspect. He has been set up of course, but Maigret is too good a judge of human nature to accept things at face value. But then Miagret seems to go off the rails - he brutally disabuses Meurant of the rose coloured spectacles through which he views his young wife. Meurant is in self denial, but Maigret changes that. Why - because if Meurant did not do the crime, someone else did - someone else strangled a poor innocent young girl - and that person must be flushed out, punished, and prevented from ever doing the same again.

All in all, I didn't think it was one of the better Maigret stories - too much self analysis and self doubt. Hopefully it was only a temporary glich, and Maigret got /will get his Mojo back in other books !






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Maigret in Society.    (1960)


I read this book in June, 2018.

This is the fourth true Maigret story in the Georges Simenon omnibus that I am reading. It's an unusual story, definitely of very different times gone by, but I enjoyed reading this tale.

Maigret is assigned an unusual case that calls for discretion. It's set in a part of Paris that Maigret does not know, and he finds it strange. Most of the people are very old, and live close together. They have been mixing together and helping each other for half a century, and comprise the aristocratic and royal cream of French Society. It's all very strange for Maigret - he doesn't know how these people think and function and he is finding it very difficult to get his bearings. A former ambassador - the Compte de Saint- Hilaire - is found dead in his study with four bullet wounds in his body. He had been found by his housekeeper Mademoiselle Arquette Larrieu, who is fiercely loyal to the Compte. We then learn of a strange romance between this chap, and Isabel, a local princess. Isabel and the Compte were childhood sweethearts, but the Compte was not grand enough for Isabel's parents. They wanted her to marry the Prince De V. She complied with her father's wishes, but told Prince de V that she loved another, would not sleep with the prince, but would agree never to see Saint-Hilaire again, This was acceptable. Thus began fifty years of letter writing between Isabel and the Compte. There was one letter a day, bundles of correspondence. It had also been agreed that Isabel would marry the Compte if her husband, the Prince, died first. And so the Prince does die in a riding accident, and a few days later the Compte is found murdered.

Maigret is getting nowhere, and Arquette is being less that helpful, but eventually Arquette asks to see priest, and the whole story falls into place.






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Maigret Loses His Temper.    (1962)


I read this book in July, 2018.

This is book five of the six book Maigret Omnibus that I am reading, and enjoying. Once I have read book six, I will need to get some more Maigret books - they are such good stories it would be a pity to only read six.

"Maigret Loses His Temper" is a little gem of a story, and we only discover what the story is really about, and why Maigret justifiably loses his temper at the very end of the tale. Obviously I won't spoil the story by saying more about this, but it must be obvious to everyone that meets him that Maigret is an honest copper. Maigret is a Chief inspector in charge of the Crime Division in Paris, and has had and still has a stellar career. He is famous - people point him out and give him the respect he deserves. I have often thought it strange that the detectives in other series that I read are not more famous. Simenon's Maigret fame seems more realistic. Simenon is a good writer, and the stories read well. He paints a vivid picture of France and Paris of that period. We join him as he walks to the local pubs with Madame Maigret, goes fishing at the weekend, nips into restaurants for a snifter, and we get a feel for the pace of life and a way of life now gone.

The specific story is set in Monmarte - district of Paris that Maigret used to know well, but with which he has rather lost touch. There are lots of striptease clubs packed together, and hoodlums and protection rackets. Two bar owners are killed. The first is Mazotti, and the police don't seem too interested - just one low life killing another. But then Emile Bloulay is reported missing by his brother in law, and Lucas, who is handling these cases calls in Maigret. Two days later Boulay's dead body is discovered lying on a pavement. It's a strange murder - strangulation is not the usual method of murder, knives and guns are more common - and nor is it usual to kill, hide a body for a couple of days, and then dump it. Maigret is intrigued, and investigates Boulay who was a very strange character, and seemed to run a very clean ship with no tax dodges. He owned four clubs near each other, and so saved on expenses - one group of exotic dancers could rotate through each club, just walking next door to the next venue. Boulay had drawn out 5,000 francs just before his death, and had had an appointment booked which he attended with no sense of danger - he left his firearm at home. Who killed him, and why ?

We follow Maigret as he follows the leads, and can see how his mind works. His team know his moods, and know when to keep out of the way. Madame Maigret is similarly understanding. These are lovely little stories.






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Maigret Goes to School    (1954)


I read this book in December, 2020.

This is a lovely little Maigret story, very evocative of the early life and times of a little village in rural France. The people there seem inbred, and don't take to incomers. It's book 45 in the Maigret series, and book 3 in my six book omnibus.

The story opens on a warm Spring day in Paris, and as usual, as Maigret climbs the stairs to his office, he glances in at the public waiting room on passing. Sitting there is a quiet, innoffensive little man - whose card is sitting on Maigret's desk - Joseph Gastin, schoolmaster of St Andre Sur Mer. Maigret puts it aside, gets on with his work, and sets off with Lucas to help a local bank investigate suspected employee criminality. Much later, Maigret returns to find that the man in the waiting room is still there, and, out of curiosity, Maigret decides to see him. Gastin is in big trouble, and has come to police headquarters in Paris to get help from the famous Detective Chief Inspector Maigret. Gastin is the schoolmaster in St Andre Sur Mer, but is not popular. A local born, retired postmistress, Leonie Birard has been shot two days previously. She was shot through the eye with the bullet from a 0.22 rifle, and it suits everyone to blame someone who was not born and bred in the village. Also Gastin forgot to tell the local police that he left his classroom for a short time the morning of the shooting. Gastin's son has a 0.22 rifle, kept in their woodshed in their garden. Worse, one of Gastin's pupils, the son of Marcellin, the butcher, later claims he saw Gastin coming out of this woodshed. However, Maigret is convinced of Gastin's innocence, and agrees to help. Of course it is just a coincidence that St Andre Sur Mer is famous for its delicious oysters and the region's fine white wine.

Although Maigret has no jurisdiction in St Andre, everyone there knows of him, holds him in awe, and the local police are only too anxious to help. Lieutenant Daniliou is in charge of the case. It seems the postmistress was a terrible, nasty, nosy, spiteful, childish woman, always quarrelling, shouting at, and making faces at her fellow villagers. In return, they all seemed to delight in playing tricks on Leonie Birard - dumping rubbish, breaking her windows, etc. It doesn't seem a happy set up. Although not popular, Leonie was a local, and Gastin was not, and so was even more unpopular. Everyone in the village was poor, and seemed on the make, anxious to turn any mishap into a money making opportunity with inflated social and insurance claims. The local doctor, Dr Breselles went along with this, but Gastin who also had official document stamping duties at the local town house, did not - hence his unpopularity. Also Gastin's wife was in disgrace - she had once been unfaithful to him, and the family had come to St Andre to start afresh, but news of Madam Gastin disgrace followed her, and ashamed, she did not mix with the other women of the village.

Maigret books into the village inn - and is generously looked after by the innkeeper Louis Paumell. And so we learn of the lives and customs of the village. Louis is a widower, sleeping with his maid, Therese. Strangely Maigret met Therese before in Paris - she was accused of prostition - but agrees to keep quiet, and so gets attentive service. Maigret was brought up in a country village, and much of life here is familiar. His visit here is part nostalgia. Dr Breselles is looked after by his spinster sister Armande. Theo Comment, the deputy mayor, has a particular dislike for Gastin - he made a pass at Madam Gastin, but was rejected. Marcellin is the butcher, Marchandon the blacksmith. It's the ironmonger's son Marcel Sellier who said he saw Gastin coming out of the woodshed whilst Gastin absolutely denies being there. There are are several mysteries for Maigret to solve. Is he wrong in believing Gaston to be innocent ? If not, why is Marcel Sellier lying - he seems an honest, sincere boy. To solve this he must gain the trust and confidence of the village schoolboys. Gastin's son is a clone of the father - studious and quiet, the cleverest boy in school, but always undermarked by Gastin for fear of accusations of favouritism. The poor boy does not have much of a life, and has no friends to mix with. The lad who unfairly gets the top marks also greatly resents this. Maigret drinks a lot of wine, and Pernod, but sadly never gets his oysters. The villagers have clammed up and know more than they are admitting. But, in the end, Maigret solves everything without much difficulty, and is on his way.

It's a quiet, understated tale without too many fireworks and only a gentle climax, but there is nothing wrong with that. I liked the story.






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Maigret and the Minister    (1954)


I read this book in July, 2018.

This is last Maigret book in the six book omnibus that I am reading, and I have enjoyed these tales so much it would be a pity to stop at only six. Maigret has a telephone call from a French cabinet minister. He wants Maigret to meet him urgently and with great secrecy. It's politics all the way, and normally Maigret would steer well clear, but the minister impresses him. He comes from a similar background , from peasant stock, and has a wife who no doubt thinks and acts just like Mme Maigret. The minister, Auguste Point, even looks like Maigret - he could be a cousin or even his brother. In brief, Point has been set up. He has been handed the last copy of a report that will create a great scandal for the ruling party, and he takes it home to his private flat for safekeeping. The report is then stolen, and immediately afterwards hints start appearing in the press that the report exists,and must be published. Poor Point will be accused of deliberately hiding the report, panics, doesn't know what to do, and asks Maigret to help. He knows Maigret only by reputation. Maigret is asked to find the missing report, and quickly. Maigret says he will help - if he cannot find the report, he promises to at least find out who stole it.

Still thinking secrecy is important, Maigret clears his task with his boss (telling him no details, just that it's a ministerial request), and then allocates tasks to his team members - Janvier, Lucas, an Lapointe - without telling them what the others are doing, nor what it is all about. Soon they are not only bumping into police colleagues from other divisions - who hint "you too" - but also bumping into each other. They soon connect what they are up to with the increasingly strident Newspaper headlines, and Maigret admits they have guess right, and it is politics. Initially Maigret is completely out of his comfort zone, but he soons catches up, and tunes into political machinations. Its a good story, with quite a bit of humour, and a satisfying conclusion.

As an aside, Maigret and his wife never had any children - it was not to be. It's quite poignant when one of his colleagues phones home to say he'll be working late, and has to speak to each of his young children to say "night, night". Maigret sighs for what might have been.

Simenon is a good writer - a few paragraphs and we are in Maigret's time and place - Paris in days gone by. Terrific stories !






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The Patience of Maigret    (1965)


I read this book in March, 2021.

This is book 5 in my 6 book Maigret compilation, and its book 65 overall in the Maigret series. It's a book with a strange, almost bitter opening. The great Maigret, the most famous and successful policeman in the country, had been in disgrace and the Chief Commissioner had even asked him to retire early. We don't know exactly what the problem had been, but working alone without any colleagues to help, Maigret had shown it was all a set up, solved the case, and was reinstated. But everyone knew that he had been treated shabbily - it was no way to treat a great man ! This book opens with Maigret and Madam Maigret enjoying some time in the country at their house in Meung-sur-Loire. This is the house they are doing up and to which they will retire. Maigret is 53, and rules say he will have to retire in 2 years time - retirement at 55 being compulsory. Maigret muses, here I am doing a high pressure job well, running a full department, but I will be judged senile in two years time. (Again, that is no way to treat a great man ).

It's a lovely Georges Simenon story showing how Maigret goes about solving a murder, interviewing anyone and everyone, amassing lots and lots of details, trying not to force connections, but eventually knowing enough background to pick up on a clue. Back in his office at the Quai des Orfevres, Maigret discovers that Janvier is investigating another jewellery robbery. Such robberies have been taking place over the last 20 years, but Maigret cannot get any proof as to who is behind them. But he won't give in - hence the title "The Patience of Maigret". There are about 3,000 jewellers shops in Paris, of which about 1,000 might have anything of value at a point in time. Someone knows when a particular shop is worth raiding, a gang of about three youths from out of town strike and disappear, never to be seen again. Stolen diamonds never reappear either. Are they being cut before disposal - requiring a skilled diamond cutter ? All the Paris ones are known, and would have too much to lose. Maigret suspects that the man behind it all is an old gang chief who stayed on in Paris when all the others left for the country or retired. This is old Manuel Palmari who was shot at a few years ago, and is now a house bound cripple, in a wheel chair. He lives with a much younger woman, Aline Bauche, and apparently the are devoted to each other. And yet, the robberies continue, and Manuel Palmari seems to get richer each time. There has been a watch on Palmari's house for months, traps have been set, but all to no avail.

Maigret has known Palmari and Aline for years - he has even used Palmari as an informer, but knows Palmari only informs on the small fry to keep in with the authorities. The beginning of the end of the robberies case comes when Aline returns from shopping to find Manuel Palmari shot with his own gun. But she waits 20 minutes before phoning for help - why ? Maigret rushes round. The police on watch confirm that no one entered the building whilst Aline was out, so Maigret interviews all the tenants. Palmari owned the whole building - all 7 storeys - but transferred it into Aline's name. None of the tenants know each other, just the concierge. Each tenant has a cellar, and can rent an extra attic room for a maid. There is also an old deaf and dumb man Jef Cloues living by himself in an attic room - more of his story later. Aline passed the paraffin test - she did not fire the gun.

We now go further into the story. Palmari also owned the Clou Dore bar and the Bussiere Hotel - Aline would go there regularly to look at the books. Maigret initially dismisses neighbours on the same 4th floor as the Palmaris as suspects. The husband is Fernard Barillard, a commercial traveller for a cardboard company. However Maigret discovers that the company makes expensive fancy display boxes for jewellers. So could this be where the inside information comes from ? Fernard's wife is a plain woman and Aline is very desirable and living with an old cripple ! So we might have the mastermind and the informer, but who is the diamond cutter ? And so the story unfolds.

Let's return to the old man in the attic, Jef Clues, and his story. He is a Jew, real name Victor Krulak, who years ago fled from the Nazi advance and in 1940 was in the Paris railway station when it was bombed, with mass victims, and blood and gore everywhere. He was badly injured, and his head was hidden under a blood stained bandage when 4 year old girl put her little hand into his. She had lost all her family in the carnage, perhaps Jef reminded her of her grandfather. Jef looked after the little girl all his life - so sad that she could not look after him at the end.

Let's also mention a new examing magistrate - Monsieur Alcelin. He has heard of the great Maigret, is a fan, delighted to be working with Maigret, and anxious to study his methods. He will co-operate in all ways with Maigret - which makes a welcome change. They dine together, get on well and become friends.

All in all, a lovely little evocative story. I liked the bit about the cellar in Palmari's block originally being a big common room with everyone having having their own little piles of coal - until the war came, and thinking their neighbours were stealing coal, the cellar was split into separate padlocked units. Too late, Maigret found the diamond cutter dead, hanging in one of these cellars. The suspects are kept isolated, unable to communicate in any way, and put under intense 24 hour a day pressure. They fall out, and want to tell their side of the story. Maigret solves the case, and leaves it to Ancelin to compile the prosecution case - "your problem will be stop them from talking."






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Maigret and the Madwoman     (1972)


I read this book in September, 2021.

This is book 6 in my 6 book Maigret compilation, and its book 73 overall in the Maigret series. It's a story that has the gentlest of openings. An old lady of 86 walks past police Paris HQ for several days before plucking up enough courage to enter. She wants to see Chief Superintendent Maigret - who is very famous - but has no appointment. Maigret asks Inspector Lapointe to see her. She has a strange tale to tell. Someone is entering her flat when she is out, and moving her things around. Someone is also sometimes following her. She knows they will probably disbelieve her story, and think her mad, but she wants to stress that she is not mad. Lapointe reports back to Maigret. We later find out that the old lady is Madam Antoine de Carmone, who lives alone, had been twice married and widowed, and has lived in her flat for over 40 years. Her first husband was Carmone, an important town hall official, and Antoine was her second husband, a hobby inventor and lover of gadgets. A few days later, having waited in the street for hours, she accosts Maigret as he leaves the office for home, and walks beside him. She tells him the tale again, says she is not imaging all this, and is not mad. She wants Maigret to call round and help her, and a busy Maigret says he will try to do so, in a few days time, say. After another few days a local Superintendent phones Maigret to say that the little old lady is dead, suffocated in her own flat.

The old lady had been living in a time warp apartment, cooking her own meals, laying her table with a proper tablecloth, and dining alone but in style. All her old friends had died, and she didn't want to make new ones. It looks as if she came home early and surprised the intruder who killed her - possibly because she recognised the intruder ? But what did she have of value, what was being searched for ? And why was this happening now ? There are six floors in the block, and two flats per floor - all the neighbours have to be interviewed. Madam de Carmone had one relative, a niece, Angele Louette, a masseuse, and Angele had a son, Billy Louette, a musician. However Angele has a boyfriend known to the police as a pimp and petty thief - le grand Marcel. Angele and Marcel have been together for 6 months, but Angele apparently dumps Marcel when Maigret tells her Marcel is a pimp, and Marcel leaves Paris and goes to Toulon.

We now follow Maigret's investigation. The flat is searched but yields nothing - except perhaps for an oil stain in a drawer. Did the old lady have a revolver, and if so, where is it now? Angele Louette and Billy are interviewed. Angele is not very co-operative, but Billy tries to help. He confirms that the old lady did indeed have a revolver. Maigret phones his old friend Superintendent Marella in Toulon, and asks him to keep an eye on le grand Marcel. Later Maigret goes to Toulon, and he and Marella interview Marcel, and also Marcel's Toulon contacts - a barman called Bob, and a retired former crime gang chief Pepito Giovanni, who now runs a big chain of legitimate businesses.

What was someone looking for, and did they find it ? Maigret says he is baffled as to what is going on, and I too could not appreciate what Simenon had already told me. Of course, Maigret gets there in the end. And as usual, it's a tale set in its time and place. All the police drink and smoke during working hours, and we join Maigret and his wife as they walk in the park, or dine out. Madam Maigret knows when to leave her husband undisturbed, deep in his thoughts and when to contribute.

All in all, a nice little tale, well told.






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