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Maigret returns by Georges Simenon
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Maigret returns (1933)

by Georges Simenon

Series: Maigret (19)

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That Simenon’s ‘Maigret’ books were so popular suggests to me a time when people were less sophisticated than today. They had been through WW1 yet they still apparently weren’t put out by the unlikelihoods in these detective stories. In this one, for instance, the murderer of Pepito unexpectedly finds that there’s a policeman in the place where he’s just committed the murder but he manages to get his boss to arrange for someone in a nearby café to bump into the policeman as he leaves the murder scene, thus incriminating the policeman who’s also done a good job of incriminating himself by putting the murder weapon which he’s found into the hand of Pepito to make it look as if he’s committed suicide but leaving his own finger-prints on the gun. And then the police charge their incompetent colleague with the murder!

Maigret, though, is up to the challenge of absolving his incompetent nephew (the charged policeman), something which doesn’t particularly surprise me when the villains, intent on mowing down Maigret as he follows a suspect, decide it’s too difficult to get Maigret and decide instead to mow down their fellow criminal. After this they circle round in their car a couple of times and then just head off when they see Maigret tending the man. All incomprehensible!

I wonder if Penguin’s new translator is English as there’s an odd turn of phrase here and there. We read that Maigret ‘had to find Pepito’s killer at all costs. But he was not on good form’. ‘On good form’ is really awkward, if not plain wrong – it should be, of course, ‘in good form’. Why did Penguin go to the expense of new translations if the translator hasn’t got the English idiom and there’s no one proof-reading properly?

As with all detective stories, there’s a lack of suspense when the reader knows that the crime will invariably be solved but when Maigret tells an accomplice ‘Whenever I’ve made up my mind to get someone, I’ve nabbed them in the end’, it reminds the reader that they’ve had to suspend their disbelief. What also seemed inevitable to me was that Maigret would die in the end of either lung cancer from his non-stop pipe-smoking or cirrhosis of the liver from all his drinking. I guess back in the thirties there wouldn’t be much chance, though, of his being fined for littering as when ‘he screwed up all his scraps of paper and threw them onto the floor’. ( )
  evening | Mar 29, 2017 |
Maigret helps out by keeping his eyes and ears open, and by wise use of his long experience of the Parisian underworld. He spends most of the novel at a table in the corner of a cafe. Every so often he makes a judiciously placed telephone call. He befriends a helpful whore. After a little light torture, all is well.

This was my first Maigret, and one is clearly in the hands of a master - one who's testing playing games: can he hold an audience while almost literally nothing happens? Well, yes - just. Which I suppose is impressive, but not as impressive as a really good novel would have been.

I'll definitely have another go, but I'm sorry I started here. ( )
  jtck121166 | Nov 1, 2015 |
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In the French original, Maigret.

Variously published in English as (i) Maigret Returns (1941) (tr. Margaret Ludwig); and (ii) Maigret (2015) (tr. Ros Schwartz).
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