I used to enjoy the TV series Maigret with Rupert Davies in the title role and when I came across this book I thought it was time to renew my acquaintance. Lock 14 was originally published in 1931 as Le Charretier de la ‘Providence’ and translated as Maigret Meets a Milord in 1963. It’s a short book of 124 pages which didn’t take me very long to read.
The main action is in the world of canals and barges with Maigret cycling up and down the canal in his efforts to discover who had murdered a woman found in a stable at Dizy alongside the canal from Epernay to Vitry-le-Francois. I was a little puzzled at first about what was going on but I wasn’t the only one as Maigret himself had to familiarise himself in a world that was very different from the one he knew. At first I found the names of the places, boats and characters confusing but really the story is quite simple, once I’d worked out who was who, which boat they were on and that horse-drawn barges had stables on board.
The murdered woman we soon discover was Mary, the wife of Sir Walter Lampson, a retired colonel of the Indian Army, who is sailing on his yacht The Southern Cross, with the seaman Vladimir, Willy Marco his friend and Gloria (Madame Negretti) the widow of a Chilean politician. When Willy is also found strangled in the canal the mystery thickens. Also travelling along the canal is the horse-drawn barge the Providence – the skipper, his wife ‘a fat Brussels woman with peroxided hair and a shrill voice’ and the carter, Jean who looks after the horses. Just who was Mary and why was she killed?
In the end I did enjoy this mystery, with its description of the gloomy canal world, as the rain pours down incessantly and Maigret gets increasingly grumpy, exasperated and tired.