Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Mairgret Has Scruples by Georges Simenon
But, wondering about that may miss the point of this 1958 novel featuring the fictional detective, Jules Maigret of the Paris police.
Here, solving a crime seems less important than understanding the culprit and the victim. In this case, no crime is committed until very late in the story.
Nearly three-quarters of the book is a series of scenes involving Chief Superintendent Maigret talking to a married couple.
The man comes to the station to tell Maigret he fears his wife is going to poison him. Later, the wife comes in to tell him her husband is nuts and possibly dangerous.
Several long talks with each follow, while, in the meantime, Maigret sends his detectives off to learn all they can about these people. It turns out the wife has a guy on the side and the husband is in love with his sister-in-law. Still, no crime has been committed.
Maigret briefs the city prosecutor and the lawyer warns him to drop it because there is no cause to be investigating this couple. But the chief persists, knowing he could wind up in legal trouble himself.
As usual with Simenon, this book is a bit of a magic act because not much happens in the 186 pages and yet every page is fascinating.
Maigret, who likes to study and understand the people he comes in contact with, is a study himself. The man is efficient, even swift when he has to be, but he can also be slow and plodding, pondering a case and worrying about the characters involved.
This and other Maigret novels feel almost leisurely. The chief even has time most days to go home and have lunch with Madame Maigret. Although she is used to him eating in silence as he puzzles out a case.
Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote 75 Maigret novels and 28 short stories. The prolific author also turned out many stand-alone novels. The numbers vary on just how many books Simenon wrote. Some estimate around 400, including the ones he did early in his career under different pen names.