I haven’t posted in months. I don’t know what my blogging problem has been – like Maigret’s reluctant witnesses from this book, I have been the reluctant blogger. Every time I consider opening a new post window, I immediately reject the idea. Usually to return to doomscrolling on Twitter. About the only good thing that would come from the potential impending Twitter collapse would be my inability to waste so much time on it.
Anyway, from time to time I feel the need to binge on something, and this month, apparently, it is Maigret. I checked out a small pile of the new Penguin translations from my local library: Maigret and the Killer (#70, published in 1969), Maigret and the Reluctant Witness (#53, published in 1955), Maigret and the Ghost (#62, published in 1964), The Judges House (#21, published in 1940) and Maigret Enjoys Himself (#50, published in 1957). These were selected for no rhyme nor reason, in no particular order, and without even really looking at the plot synopses. I just picked books that were available. That’s it.
The first one that I finished was Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses. This is set in Paris and is in the later half of the series; Maigret is seemingly getting accustomed to the idea of retirement – although now that I know that there 74 books total, which means there are 21 books that follow this one, the immediacy of his retirement seems quite exaggerated. Maigret is sent to investigate a murder that has occurred in the Lachaume family home, where they have lived for many generations, the owners of a biscuit factory. No one seems to actually buy, or eat, their biscuits, so how the factory keeps churning them out is a significant part of the mystery.
It is necessary to get into a bit of a groove with Simenon and Maigret. These books look slight, but they are really not. At a mere 183 pages, the book is full of character and social commentary. Like Agatha Christie’s England, Simenon’s France is a place both in and out of time. The “mystery” is almost beside the point, and I make very few efforts to “solve” the case; enjoying, rather, the sensation of slipping into a very distinct world. The mystery itself, here, is well rendered, as is the fading, insular upper class Parisian family at the center of it.
This entry was very late in the series, and Maigret still hasn’t retired, although he continues to mention that it is imminent. As someone who is – myself – planning to retire in less than a year, I find this vaguely hilarious. Do it, Maigret, and spend some delightful years in the company of Mrs. Maigret.
I really liked this one. First of all, I’m grooving on Simenon’s Paris here, but also, this is a psychopath mystery and it’s really intriguing. It’s proto-Criminal Minds.
In addition, Mrs. Maigret plays a significant role and shows bravery and resourcefulness. I always enjoy seeing functional marriages between the detective/inspector and spouse in crime fiction because they are the exception and not the norm. I grow weary of the fictional brilliant damaged detective who can’t maintain a healthy relationship with other human beings. At this point, it’s a trite stereotype.
I think that I will read The Judge’s House next, because I love the cover, and I love it when Maigret gets sent to coastal France. This is an early entry into the series, at #21, and was published in 1940.
I am also going to take a moment to talk about these new Penguin editions because I love them. I think that the book design is really appealing – the print is a big bigger than usual and they are a nice, slim size. All of the covers are details from photos by a photographer named Harry Gruyaert. I had never heard of him until I noticed that several covers credited his photographs so I went down a tiny internet rabbit hold and found this wonderful feature from the Guardian: Georges Simenon’s Maigret gets a new look – in pictures, which provides some context for the project.
Lucky for me, it seems that one of my two library systems has all of them. I’m not sure how long this binge will last, but so long as it does, I intend to indulge it.