Crime Fiction Alphabet: S is for …

Maigret and the Ghost by Georges Simenon, which is my choice to illustrate the letter S in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet.

Simenon wrote many Maigret books spanning the years 1931 – 1972, 75 novels and twenty eight short stories to be precise.

Maigret and the Ghost was first published in 1964 as Maigret et le Fantome. Inspector Lognon, a plain-clothes detective is shot in the street and is close to death, fighting for his life. The last word he spoke was ‘ghost’. It is soon apparent that this grumpy detective, who suffers from an inferiority complex, believing that he never gets the credit he is due, was visiting the apartment of a beautiful young woman every night. Chief Superintendent Maigret finds it hard to believe he has transformed into some sort of Don Juan. The young woman has disappeared.

Maigret investigates in his usual seemingly casual manner, registering impressions, which he knew would sooner or later ‘coalesce and become meaningful.’ Lognon’s wife insists that he was convinced he was onto something big which would bring him the recognition he deserved. Maigret’s investigations lead him into the strange world of art dealer Norris Jonker and his glamorous and much younger wife, Mirella. His search for the culprit brings him into contact again with the English detective he had first met in My Friend Maigret, Mr Pyke, now Chief Inspector Pyke at Scotland Yard.

I really enjoyed this short, concise detective story. Simenon writes such taut prose, straight-forward and direct, with not one word wasted. He conveys the nature of each character with precision, the dialogue is so realistic and the setting in a rainy Paris is so atmospheric. It’s almost like viewing a painting. Because his books are short (in comparison to today’s chunksters) the tension is easily maintained throughout and it’s so well-paced that I just  had to read it straight through from start to finish.

Although short Simenon’s books don’t lack detail or complicated plots. One of the things I like about them are the glimpses into Maigret’s personal life. In this book Madame Maigret is thrilled because he invites her out to lunch:

They couldn’t help exchanging smiles. The contrast between lunching at home in the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and in the intimate atmosphere of the little restaurant struck them both at the same time. Madame Maigret especially was tremendously thrilled by it. (page 37)

She was also thrilled because she had been to see Madame Lognon and on telling Maigret about the visit he commented:

‘I fancy what you have just told me alters the whole complexion of the case …’

She stared at him, torn between incredulity and delight. For the rest of her life, that lunch at Chez Maniere was to remain one of her happiest memories. (page 40)

Georges Simenon was definitely a master of the detective novel.

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (4 Dec 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187273
  • Source: library book
  • My Rating 4/5

I’ve read some of his other books –

9 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: S is for …”

  1. Loved your review Margaret – it’s a book I read and really enjoyed, and you’ve managed to encapsulate my own feelings about it! Why are Maigret (or any other Simenon) books so difficult to get hold of these days?

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  2. Margaret – I’m so pleased you chose Simenon tor S. I agree with you that his Maigret is a terrific character, but I’ve also always liked Simenon’s skill at creating atmosphere. He’s drawn some colourful characters too. Yes indeed he was a master of the detective story.

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  3. Margaret can you believe I have not read any of his novels?! I have watched the TV series based on them and loved the characters. I gave one book away a few years ago unread but have picked up another on and am looking forward to reading it soon!

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  4. This is a very nice review of a book by an author I want to read more of. Haven’t read his books in quite a while and just bought a couple at a booksale.

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  5. I like short taut prose, and Maigret sounds like a detective I would enjoy. I have to check Simenon out. I’m amazed by his productivity – 75 novels! That’s nearly 2 books a year assuming he didn’t write anything else. Not much by today’s publish or perish standards but that seems pretty intense for that period.

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  6. Great choice. Simenon is a truly unique writer. I sometimes find it hard to distinguish one book of his from another but am never is any doubt about their authorship. Extraordinary way he had of conveying people and places. I haven’t read this one (I don’t think …) but I remember liking MY FRIEND MAIGRET in particular.

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