Category: Georges Simenon

book review – My Friend Maigret – Georges Simenon

“Who would have dared not to take him seriously? Heaps of people, who did not have easy consciences, trembled at the mention of his name. He had the power to question them until they cried out with anguish, to put them in prison, send them to the guillotine.
In this very island, there was now someone who, like himself, heard the sounds of the bells, who breathed the sabbath air, someone who was drinking in the same room as himself the previous evening and who, in a few days, would be shut up once and for all within four walls.”

The story starts with a down at heel former criminal being murdered on the island of Porquerolles. The night before his body is discovered the petty crook had been telling the villagers at the pub that he was a personal friend of the great chief inspector Maigret. As a result it is assumed that the attack was an indirect one on Maigret and he needs to come and solve the case for his own protection.

But things are not as easy as they sound because Maigret is being shadowed by a Scotland Yard detective studying French methods. Maigret can hardly reveal his methods are about pottering around smoking his pipe and listening to people so there is a tension there from the start.

Added to that tension is the relationship between Maigret and the deceased and a prostitute who was a girlfriend of the victim and was also helped in the past by the policeman.

That help seems to cross the line between policeman and offender but it is a grey area that Maigret finds himself in a few times on the investigation and is part ofn his methodology.

In the end the crime is solved through Maigret’s methods with some help from the Englishman who manages to make a few passing comments that stick in the French detective’s mind.

They have to go through the rigmarole of interviewing the villagers but it is out and about between the cracks of human life that the key to the mystery lies and where Maigret finds the answers.

Reading Simenon is like slipping neck-up into a hot bubble bath. He relaxes, amuses and gently challenges the concentration of the reader before tying it all up neatly at the end.

Thoughts at the half way point of My Friend Maigret

In some respects a Maigret story is my reading equivalent of a pack of Minstrels. Something to relax and enjoy, a bit of comfort and something totally pleasurable.

The grumpy Parisian detective has his own ways of working but in this story he is hampered by the shadowing of a detective from Scotland yard who has been sent to see how the great French crime solver works.

The case that presents itself is one that starts off on the wrong foot with an criminal who was boasting of his friendship with Maigret being shot dead. The assumption is that the person who killed him has a hatred for Maigret and so the detective is sent to the island in the Med where the crime has occurred to find the killer.

As the English policeman heads with him the reader is given an insight into the mind of Maigret and the way he works, which if he was given the choice would be just to walk round the village smoking his pipe.

A review will follow shortly…

book review – The Friend of Madame Maigret


There might be a snobbishness with thrillers but there is a skill to weaving a story that is both unfathomable but equally realistic. The prolific Georges Simenon is better than most at managing to do both with a helping hand from well established characters in the form of Inspector Maigret and Paris.

Paris plays a bigger role than you might expect with the city setting the mood with its rain soaked streets and seedy bars full of gossips and informants. Then there are the hotels and brothels that provide refugee for murderers. In this case there is a carefully choreographed location with a book binder’s flat and workrooms sitting on a corner looked on by a grocers and a café.

An anonymous tip-off to the police starts the investigations at the bookbinders with the binder taken into custody facing the charge of disposing of a man’s body in his furnace.

Muddying the waters is an ambitious lawyer who represents the bookbinder and the binder’s girlfriend who swears they lead a quiet life without the opportunity for murder.

The ball is already rolling when Maigret gets involved with the case and he constantly regrets not being able to start afresh and investigate it with methods that he would have deployed from the start. But the irony is that the link between the bookbinder and the murderer’s comes from Mrs Maigret who manages to meet some of the gang purely by mistake while waiting for a dental appointment.

She weaves in the occasional piece of information that Maigret ferments in his brain and finally leads to a solution. What really unlocks the mystery is Maigret’s ability to understand and predict human behaviour to the extent that he can reveal links and actions that no one else could have guessed at.

Of course he solves the case but he does so displaying great understanding and humility and shows that he is head and shoulders above most of his colleagues.

book review – The Friend of Madame Maigret


There might be a snobbishness with thrillers but there is a skill to weaving a story that is both unfathomable but equally realistic. The prolific Georges Simenon is better than most at managing to do both with a helping hand from well established characters in the form of Inspector Maigret and Paris.

Paris plays a bigger role than you might expect with the city setting the mood with its rain soaked streets and seedy bars full of gossips and informants. Then there are the hotels and brothels that provide refugee for murderers. In this case there is a carefully choreographed location with a book binder’s flat and workrooms sitting on a corner looked on by a grocers and a café.

An anonymous tip-off to the police starts the investigations at the bookbinders with the binder taken into custody facing the charge of disposing of a man’s body in his furnace.

Muddying the waters is an ambitious lawyer who represents the bookbinder and the binder’s girlfriend who swears they lead a quiet life without the opportunity for murder.

The ball is already rolling when Maigret gets involved with the case and he constantly regrets not being able to start afresh and investigate it with methods that he would have deployed from the start. But the irony is that the link between the bookbinder and the murderer’s comes from Mrs Maigret who manages to meet some of the gang purely by mistake while waiting for a dental appointment.

She weaves in the occasional piece of information that Maigret ferments in his brain and finally leads to a solution. What really unlocks the mystery is Maigret’s ability to understand and predict human behaviour to the extent that he can reveal links and actions that no one else could have guessed at.

Of course he solves the case but he does so displaying great understanding and humility and shows that he is head and shoulders above most of his colleagues.

The Friend of Madame Maigret – post II

You are rooting for Maigret as he gets attacked and undermined by the press and in some cases his own police department but he seems to be more than two steps ahead of anyone else.

Finally he starts to flex his muscles and the net draws around the guilty with various loose ends getting sewn up and the reader being taken on a fair journey of having to guess if the bookbinder is guilty or not.

Without giving the ending away its safe to summarise by pointing out that the superintendent gets his man but also puts justice back on an even keel.

This is a book that drags you into a world of rain soaked Parisian streets and into the politics of small traders. It also tackles the influence of the press and the impact on an investigation when the waters become so muddied by the impact of gossip and speculation.

A very enjoyable read that might not have the ending you expect or particularly wanted but one that leaves Maigret standing tall as usual as a policeman in a field of his own.

A review will follow soon…

The Friend of Madame Maigret – post I

If you are struggling with a book, and Lines of Fate is just that, then the perfect alternative is a great thriller.

This is one of the 75 books written by Georges Simenon and it develops the character of Maigret’s wife. Not hugely but more than in the other books I have read and she plays a pivotal role in helping sole the crime.

There is a book binder waiting in prison to find out if he is going to be charged on the basis of an anonymous tip-off that he burnt a body in his incinerator. But there is something else going on with Maigret being hounded in the press by the book binder’s lawyer.

But the unshakable detective not only gets a grip on the case but starts to take the initiative. But you still feel the bookbinder is innocent and the real story lies elsewhere.

More tomorrow…

book review – The Madman of Bergerac


The reason for choosing this book by Georges Simenon after the Idle Burglar is that this book finds a younger and more dynamic detective. The irony is that after he throws himself off a train at the start of the book to try to follow a mystery figure and gets shot in the shoulder as a reward Maigret is bed bound.

The book then takes on a Rear Window type feel with Maigret looking out of his hotel window down onto the town square of Bergerac. Despite not being able to move a great deal Maigret manages to upset and alienate the leading lights of the community and refuses to play along with the idea that the case has been solved with a body being found in the woods near the train track.

Most of the great detective stories evolve around a character that just seems to have a nose for deception and a gut feeling that leads to the killer. Maigret is no different and his dogged persistence of the doctor, his wife and sister-in-law and the prosecutor. He manages to unsettle them enough to solve the mystery but he risks his own reputation in his pursuit of the truth.

With so many detective’s either being loners, divorced or in slowly disintegrating marriages it is rather touching to see Maigret relying on his wife as his eyes and ears when he is trapped in his hotel room. She understands not only his personality but by the end starts to appreciate his methods.

Maybe it is because he wrote so many books but Simenon never really pushes Maigret but lets the story flow. There is no angst filled moments when he pulls up in a car and stares out at a horizon and wonders whet he is doing with his life just a determined attempt to solve a crime and make a difference.

The other consequence of the output by Simenon is that you know there are so many books to choose from that there is no pressure to keep going straight from one book to another to finish a series. You do end this wanting to read more but knowing that Maigret will be there when the mood takes you.

Version read – Penguin paperback