by Georges Simenon, © 1932, (first U.S. edition published 1942), Harvest Books paperback, translation by Stuart Gilbert, mystery featuring Inspector Maigret
the 43rd in my review series of “forgotten” books
A man found wandering in Paris has been shot in the head, skillfully operated on, is recoverd from the wound but doesn’t seem aware of who he is and is unable to speak. Finally he is identified as the retired harbor-master of Ouistreham, Capt. Yves Joris. Among his letters has been found a bank statement showing someone has deposited 300,000 francs to his bank account.
Joris’ house-keeper, Julie Legrand, comes to Paris to take him home, and Maigret accompanies them back to Ouistreham. Early the next morning Maigret is called to the house: Capt. Joris has been poisoned, and dies within the hour. Julie’s brother, Louis Legrand (Big Louis) is an ex-con seaman who works on the costal trader Saint-Michel, which had been in port the night the Capt. initially disappeared.
Maigret visits the Saint-Michel, which has docked, and meets Louis and the vessel’s furtive Captain, Yves Lannec. Under suspicion but not arrest, Louis leaves. But why did he sleep on a dredger? Who did he meet there? Maigret asks questions, but no one is talking.
The Maigret books interest me on several levels. The French setting is quite different from my usual reading. The Maigret character is unlike others as well: he is methodical, introspective, plodding yet takes action – often violent – as required. He is very self-confident, not always justified, but it motivates him to take, or refrain from taking, action when presented with clues or changes in the situation.
There is a quality in the books which I can only describe as density, as if the weather, landscape, actions of the characters and responses by Maigret and the other officers stack layer on layer, as opposed to following nose to tail as in most mysteries. The conclusion of the book, the last clue, the final action – the finish – sits atop, like the highest stone in a dry-stacked wall.
If it’s been a while since you read a Maigret novel, this might just be a good time to lose yourself for a while in France, and in the mind of this fascinating character and in one of the many well-written novels about him that Georges Simenon wrote.
~ ~ ~ ~