Maigret and the Burglar's Wife

Both my laptop and I have been ill recently, so a few brisk reviews are needed to get back up to date. I do love Maigret, it's partly for his nostalgia value, which sometimes adds a slightly comical counterpoint to the serious crime story (oh for the days when policemen attended a murder scene in taxis), but it's mainly because most of the stories are strongly plotted and are just a great read. Maigret and the burglar's wife is, I believe, one of Simenon's best stories.

There's nostalgia value a-plenty, the Parisian police have, by the time of this novelette, risen to the dizzying heights of a car pool, but are still able to investigate serious crime while being half-pickled - by my reckoning Maigret gets through 5 or 6 shots of Calvados, 6 pints of beer, a bottle of brandy, and a pernod by the end of the book. This does give the book a certain amount of unintended comedy value, but it actually makes the central story stand out in even darker relief.

The novel has a darkly comedic opening. A former prostitute, an old adversary of Maigret's, comes to his office with a problem. Her husband, Sad Freddie, one of the foremost safe crackers in France, has fled the country after tripping over a dead body in the course of an evening's safe cracking. Maigret is unconvinced by the story, but reluctantly decides to investigate, but upon finding that there is no evidence of a burglary or a murder, but there is a missing woman, becomes unwillingly drawn into the case, which turns out to be even more sinister than he could have predicted.

It's a clever compelling story, with an unexpected villain. If you haven't already tried Maigret this is a good story with which to start.


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