In a bind

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Madame Maigret’s Friend
by Georges Simenon.
L’amie de Mme Maigret
translated by Howard Curtis.
Penguin Classics, 2016 (1950).

An anonymous message informs the Paris police that a certain Flemish bookbinder has been burning a corpse in his stove, and the accused man’s lawyer seems to have a vendetta against Inspector Maigret.

Meanwhile, the dinner Mme Maigret has prepared for her husband is burning to a crisp when a woman literally leaves her holding the baby – or rather toddler – in a park. Who is this friend of Mme Maigret, and what possible connection, if there is one, has this strange unexplained incident with Maigret’s case?

As ever the inspector’s investigations, with his team based at the Palais de Justice on the Quai des Orfèvres, take him all over Paris north of the Seine. For a while Maigret appears to be in a bind, but his steady piecing together of hints and clues from interviews and observations may yet yield solutions.

Paris in the rain

There’s a grim irony in Detective Chief Inspector Maigret investigating an apparent murder in a basement flat, where only a few teeth are left after a dismembered corpse is burnt, coupled with Mme Maigret doing her own investigating after unavoidably burning her husband’s meal. We’re invited to consider how a missing brown suitcase, a fashionable woman’s white hat, a suit which is variously described as brown or blue, and a chocolate brown Chrysler motorcar all relate to the case. And where have all the suspects and their associates disappeared to?

Simenon is really good at establishing no-nonsense situations and atmospheres. As spring in Paris progresses through mild days and weeks with leaden skies, we follow Maigret through the capital’s streets or into the countryside, from the Palais de Justice to hotels and bars; we even follow Madame M to shops and boutiques in her search for the identity and location of the missing woman and the toddler. And we’re grateful that two-thirds of the way in Simenon has included Maigret’s reconstructed timeline of events which summarise the disparate details already gleaned from the text.

This is one of the more enjoyable Maigret novels I’ve read, where the expected intellectual puzzles are balanced by our insights into the humans involved. I loved observing Mme Maigret’s relationship with her husband (and vice versa) portrayed in tandem with the evident respect and loyalty of Maigret’s team of inspectors – Lucas, Janvier and new boy Lapointe – his dealings with specialist colleagues as well as members of the public, and his delicate probings into the motivations of assorted individuals.

And do we ever find out who sent that anonymous note which triggered this case? I shall leave that for future readers to discover.


Paris in July 2022: Thyme for Tea and Readerbuzz

Read for Paris in July 2022 and posted today, le quatorze juillet, Bastille Day in France.

18 thoughts on “In a bind

  1. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Simenon’s standalone novels but still haven’t tried any of the Maigrets. This sounds like a good one – and a perfect choice for Paris in July!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She’s a wonderful foil to her husband, and I hope I’ll see more of Mme Maigret in due course! Brilliant that Penguin have decided to reissue all the titles in a uniform edition with attractive covers and in new translations

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a very satisfying plot, full of surprising but not implausible twists and turns, and Mme Maigret proves herself just as subtle in her sleuthing as her other half. I really enjoyed this.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very abstemious of you! I really don’t mind them out of order: I’ve read four Maigret novels, this, My Friend Maigret, Maigret in Holland / Un Crime en Hollande and Maigret Defends Himself, but I know some time in the past I’ve read one or two others though I have no memory which.

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    1. Er, thank you, Gert—not sure if this is a good thing or not! I don’t think I’ve been over-egging the pudding but now you’re making me misdoubt myself…

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    1. This was one of the more engaging episodes I’ve read, Cleo, I’m not sure that they’re all as equally memorable – in fact even fans seem to agree that some of the novels are so dry as to be so-so at best. But this worked for me, so maybe for you too!

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