Monday, December 10, 2007

book review - Maigret and the Idle Burglar


When is a policeman not allowed to be a policeman? The answer in this Georges Simenon thriller is when the policeman is hampered by red tape and procedure. So when it starts with Maigret being invited by a colleague to view a corpse that has been dumped in the cold the detective discovers who the victim is, that he was a burglar and even his past history. But because the prosecutor has to handle everything the old detective is sent home.

Maigret manages to investigate the death of the burglar in parallel with keeping an eye on a spate of robberies he is charged with solving. The way Maigret goes about looking into the case of the idle burglar shows compassion, human understanding and an appreciation of working with those on the wrong side of the law. All of the traits that would not be acceptable to the system. So he expresses frustration and bitterness but all the time gets closer to solving not just how he died but how the burglar lived his life.

If there is a moral from this story it is that it is possible to write a character that is prepared to be human. Someone who can show that they sympathise and have the flexibility to turn a blind eye in order to solve a bigger problem. Maigret is written in light brush strokes but you can visualise a detective two years away from retirement with a wife who desperately wants him to take it easy. Not only is the detective coping with age, modern methods and the system but he is also fighting against an attitude that will let certain criminals go unpunished if they are important enough.

For a slim book it leaves you with the pay off that the robbery crimes are solved and the criminals caught and put into the pipeline to face justice. But the case of the poor forgotten burglar is only solved in the mind of Maigret who knows that the killers will get away with it. An ending that is not common for a thriller, but one that is thought provoking nonetheless.

Version read - Penguin paperback

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