Paris in July: My Friend Maigret by Georges Simenon

I already love him, this famous Inspector Maigret about whom I’ve been hearing so much. By page 20, I see that we have similar feelings, he and I. For example, here’s a passage about work:
“Don’t you like the Mediterranean?”

“In general, I dislike places where I lose the desire to work.”

“That’s because you like working, is it?”

“I don’t know.”

It was true. On the one hand he railed every time a case came along to interrupt his daily routine. On the other hand as soon as he was left in peace for several days he would become restless, as though anxious.”
Or, how about this simple phrase?
“Not yet sure if he was in a good temper or a bad one Maigret grumbled as he fumbled in his suitcase for his razor.”
I don’t fumble for a razor in the morning. But I do often wonder if I’m in a good mood or a bad one; it isn’t always readily clear on any given morning.
Even if the mystery would prove to be disappointing, I can tell that Maigret himself will not be. No wonder Georges Simenon is as beloved an author as the Inspector he created…
When a man named Marcellin is killed (on the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles) for proclaiming his admiration for Chief Inspector Maigret, the Inspector leaves Paris to investigate. He is shadowed by a British policeman, from London, who has been invited by Maigret to see how it is that the French solve cases. (Like a brother in law and his wife, who are perfectly respectful but annoying after five days, Maigret wonders how long he can abide this policeman’s company. Even though Maigret himself invited him.)
While the setting is not in Paris, it sounds like the most appealing French island, where people must take a boat to and from the mainland. It is a perfect description for a summer escape: the air is tropical and balmy; the trees are tamarisk, olive and pine; and white wine is drunk every evening by the citizens who gather at the Arche for conversation and games. 
It makes me long for an era gone by (this novel was first published in 1949), for the south of France, and for people who lead simple lives, albeit with secrets of their own. It makes me long for more novels involving Maigret, a character for whom I feel more affinity than Inspector Clouseau, Hercule Poirot, or even Chief Inspector Armand Gamache himself.
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11 thoughts on “Paris in July: My Friend Maigret by Georges Simenon”

  1. I have been meaning to buy into the new edition of the Maigret novels that are slowly making their way into the book stores and this has just nudged me further in that direction. I remember the television series when I was a very young child but I've never read any of the books. I really must do something about that now.

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  2. I'm a huge Maigret fan – hard to believe Simenon dashed them off in just a few weeks – they are short, but so well-crafted and the main character clearly sprung fully-formed and solid in the author's mind from the very start (although he does evolve in the course of the series).

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  3. I wish I had more time in my life – or was more efficient at reading… This sounds like an addictive reader. I've been watching a bit of Hercule Poirot on tele recently and have really enjoyed that for it's characterisation of the belgium inspector. I think I could also like Maigret

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  4. I've liked the Simenon that I've read so much that it's baffling that I haven't read more of him. I'm utterly indebted to Simenon's books, though; when trying to resurrect my high school French, I started with him, and he proved the perfect gateway for improving – by orders of magnitude – my reading in that language.

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  5. I agree with you that even when a mystery is disappointing, Maigret is not. Another comment refers to his evolution. Tracking Maigret, his wife, and his associates as characters makes the series for me. They become very familiar, but are not always predictable.

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  6. I do love the mysteries of that period but despite owning every Agatha Christie and Anne Perry (OK, Victorian, still…) I haven't read Maigret. So, out comes the TBR list and I see a trip to my used bookstore in my immediate future!

    Catching up on PIJ posts now that I am finally back on reliable internet. Can't wait to see what else you've been up to!

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