Reading a Maigret or two during Paris in July has now become one of those things that I look forward to with a great deal of anticipation each year. Because of this though, I now associate Maigret with dreary, winter nights and rainy days (although not so much of the rain this year). My last two Maigret’s, which were both set in Paris in high summer, had me all turned upside down and seasonally confused.
Fortunately Maigret and the Ghost takes us back to winter in Paris, and it feels like the seasons (if not the months) are back in sync for now.
This was mid-November and it had rained all day. Maigret hadn’t left the stiflingly hot atmosphere of his office since eight o’clock the previous morning. Before crossing the courtyard, he turned up the collar of his overcoat.
I classify these crime stories as cosy, simply because even though people die we don’t then have detailed forensic information or grisly crime scenes raked over by specialists using all sorts of forensic jargon. This type of gory story seems to dominate many of the modern crime stories, which is why I don’t read (or watch) them. It’s not my thing.
The Maigret’s are pure detective story. The books are about the man, more than the crime. He is our hero that we come to admire, if not love, with each book. We get to know his techniques and his moods. The pleasure in reading comes from watching Maigret untangle the clues. His psychological methods and intuition become familiar and reliable.
In this case, we see Maigret, weary after coming off an all-nighter solving another unrelated crime, suddenly being informed of a shooting incident involving an inspector from a neighbouring precinct. Maigret quickly realises that his colleague was onto something big and that time is of the essence to stop another major criminal act from taking place. Art smuggling, forgeries, kidnapping and blackmail are the crimes with missing witnesses, nosy neighbours and deceptive suspects the spanners in the works.
It may be a little weird to say a crime novel was a lot of fun, but when Simenon gets it right, watching Maigret piece it all together is such a joy. This is one of the Maigret’s where Simenon gets out of the way and lets Maigret do all the work instead.
Book 14 of 20 Books of Summer Winter
- 23. Signe Picpus (1944)
- 30. Maigret’s First Case (1948)
- A Maigret Christmas (1951) | short stories
- 43. Maigret’s Mistake (1953)
- 44. Maigret Goes to School (1953)
- 46. Maigret and the Minister (1955)
- 60. Maigret and the Tramp (1962)
- 61. Maigret’s Anger (1962)
- 62. Maigret and the Ghost (1963)
- 70. Maigret and the Killer (1969)
Title: Maigret and the Ghost | Maigret and the Apparition | Maigret et le fantôme Author: Georges Simenon Translator: Ros Schwartz ISBN: 9780241304037 Imprint: Penguin Classics Published: 3 December 2018 (originally published June 1963) Format: Paperback Pages: 160