Tuesday, January 06, 2009

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.

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