Oh Those Methods!

Joe Leaphorn leans back in his office chair and stares at the seemingly random colored pins adorning the map on the wall. Hercule Poirot charges up his little gray cells with a tisane and a swirl of his mustache. But the detective I most admire hulks around, watches, listens, applies his methods, and has an occasional ragoût at the local bistro. Yes, it is Jules Maigret, commissioner of the Paris “Brigade Criminelle” (commissaire – Direction Régionale de Police Judiciaire de Paris).

MaigretGeorges Simenon is one of the most prolific writers in the world and there are plenty of Maigret novels and stories to enjoy, starting with Pietr-le-Letton (Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett). Over the years Maigret undergoes changes, both personal and professional, becoming more refined and expanding his team at the Brigade so that the later novels focus less on his personality and more on the narrative being developed. Of course, after 76 novels and dozens of short stories, Maigret’s methods are familiar to every reader and the experience might be considered more for the comfort of a familiar situation and not as much for the thrill of the chase. Besides, nowadays books and movies are so graphic and shocking that we might need to slow down and enjoy more old-fashioned pleasures. Maigret works for me.

NeoSo where do you want to go: Chief Inspector Maigret or maybe Neo in The Matrix?

My most recent Maigret novel was titled The Flemish Shop. This was Simenon’s fourteenth Maigret novel, written in 1932. A good story and it demonstrated several things about Maigret which are a part of his mystique. First, since he was outside of his jurisdiction, he honored the local gendarme’s authority (for the most part); second, despite solving the crime, he let the criminal go free, presumably because incarceration or other form of punishment would not improve the situation (and vengeance or punishment was not in Maigret’s nature).

One other point I noticed in this novel: Simenon wrote the first treatment of what much later became the character of Columbo. Here is the quotation (Machère in the local gendarme):

 “Machère seems to be a capable fellow,” he said at last.

“He doesn’t look very intelligent,” said Anna slowly and deliberately.

And Maigret smiled at her. It was a smile of complicity.

“How many people do look intelligent? And when it comes to that, it’s often just as well not to. As a rule, as soon as I’ve found a likely suspect, I take care to look as foolish as I can.”

Simenon has written many novels that are not Maigret police procedurals but just the Maigret list is very impressive. I have lifted this list from the website at Trussel:

According to the altar boy (ss)
Affair of the Boulevard Beaumarchais, The (ss)
At the Étoile du Nord (ss)
At the “Gai-Moulin”

Bar on the Seine, The
Barge with Two Hanging Bodies, The (ss)
Battle of Nerves, A
Bayeux Murder, The (ss)

Case of Peter the Lett, The
Crime at Lock 14, The
Crime in Holland, A
Crime in the Rue Sainte-Catherine (ss)
Crime of Inspector Maigret, The
Crossroad Murders, The

Dead Man’s Barge (ss)
Death of a Countess
Death of a Harbor Master
Death of a Harbormaster
Death of a Harbour Master
Death of a Nobody (ss)
Death of a Woodlander (ss)
Death of Monsieur Gallet, The
Death Penalty (ss)
Death Threats (ss)
Drowned Men’s Inn, The (ss)

Elusive Witness (ss)
Evidence of the Altar-Boy, The (ss)

Face for a Clue, A
Flemish Shop, The
Friend of Madama Maigret, The
Friend of Madame Maigret, The

Group at the Grand Café, The (ss)
Guinguette by the Seine

Hotel Majestic, The

In the Rue Pigalle (ss)
Inn of the Drowned, The (ss)
Inspector Cadaver
Inspector Maigret and the Burglar’s Wife
Inspector Maigret and the Dead Girl
Inspector Maigret and the Killers
Inspector Maigret and the Missing Miniatures (ss)
Inspector Maigret and the Strangled Stripper
Inspector Maigret Deduces (ss)
Inspector Maigret Directs (ss)
Inspector Maigret Hesitates (ss)
Inspector Maigret in New York’s Underworld
Inspector Maigret Investigates (ss)
Inspector Maigret Pursues (ss)
Inspector Maigret Smokes His Pipe (ss)
Inspector Maigret Thinks (ss)
Inspector Maigret’s War of Nerves (ss)

Jeumont, 51 Minutes’ Stop! (ss)
Jeumont: 51 Minutes’ Wait (ss)
Jeumont, 51 Minutes’ Wait! (ss)
Journey Backward into Time (ss)
Journey into Time (ss)

Lock 14
Lock at Charenton, The
Lock No. 1

Madame Maigret’s Admirer (ss)
Madame Maigret’s Friend
Madame Maigret’s Own Case
Mademoiselle Berthe and her Lover (ss)
Madman of Bergerac, The
Maigret Afraid
Maigret and Monsieur Charles
Maigret and the Apparition
Maigret and the Black Sheep
Maigret and the Bum
Maigret and the Burglar’s Wife
Maigret and the Calame Report
Maigret and the Concarneau Murders
Maigret and the Coroner
Maigret and the Countess
Maigret and the Death of a Harbor Master
Maigret and the Dosser
Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett
Maigret and the Flea
Maigret and the Flemish Shop
Maigret and the Fortuneteller
Maigret and the Frightened Dressmaker (ss)
Maigret and the Gangsters
Maigret and the Ghost
Maigret and the Headless Corpse
Maigret and the Hotel Majestic
Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets
Maigret and the Idle Burglar
Maigret and the Informer
Maigret and the Killer
Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
Maigret and the Loner
Maigret and the Madwoman
Maigret and the Man on the Bench
Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard
Maigret and the Millionaires
Maigret and the Minister
Maigret and the Nahour Case
Maigret and the Old Lady
Maigret and the Pickpocket
Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses
Maigret and the Saturday Caller
Maigret and the Spinster
Maigret and the Strangled Stripper
Maigret and the Surly Inspector (ss)
Maigret and the Tavern by the Seine
Maigret and the Toy Village
Maigret and the Wine Merchant
Maigret and the Yellow Dog
Maigret and the Young Girl
Maigret Answers a Plea
Maigret at the Coroner’s
Maigret at the Crossroads
Maigret at the “Gai-Moulin”
Maigret Bides His Time
Maigret Goes Home
Maigret Goes to School
Maigret Has Doubts
Maigret Has Scruples
Maigret Hesitates
Maigret in Court
Maigret in Exile
Maigret in Holland
Maigret in Montmartre
Maigret in New York
Maigret in New York’s Underworld
Maigret in Retirement
Maigret in Society
Maigret in Vichy
Maigret Loses His Temper
Maigret Meets a Milord
Maigret Mystified
Maigret on Holiday
Maigret on Home Ground
Maigret on the Defensive
Maigret on the Riviera
Maigret Rents a Room
Maigret Returns
Maigret Sets a Trap
Maigret Sits it Out
Maigret Stonewalled
Maigret Takes a Room
Maigret Takes the Waters
Maigret to the Rescue
Maigret’s Boyhood Friend
Maigret’s Christmas (ss)
Maigret’s Christmas; or, The Girl Who Believed in Santa Claus (ss)
Maigret’s Dead Man
Maigret’s Failure
Maigret’s First Case
Maigret’s Little Joke
Maigret’s Memoirs
Maigret’s Mistake
Maigret’s Mistake (ss)
Maigret’s Pickpocket
Maigret’s Pipe (ss)
Maigret’s Revolver
Maigret’s Rival
Maigret’s Special Murder
Maigret’s War of Nerves
Man in the Street, The (ss)
Man on the Boulevard, The
Man on the Run, The (ss)
Man’s Head, A
Methods of Maigret, The
Most Obstinate Customer in the World, The (ss)
Most Obstinate Man in Paris, The (ss)
Most Obstinate Man in the World, The (ss)
Mr. Monday (ss)
My Friend Maigret
Mysterious Affair in the Boulevard Beaumarchais, The (ss)

No Vacation for Maigret
None of Maigret’s Business
Not the Sort to Get Murdered (ss)

Old Lady of Bayeux, The (ss)
Open Window, The (ss)

Patience of Maigret, The
Sailors’ Rendezvous, The
Saint-Fiacre Affair, The
Sale by Auction (ss)
Shadow in the Courtyard, The
Spot by the Seine, A
Stan the Killer (ss)
Storm in the Channel (ss)
Storm over the Channel (ss)
Strange Case of Peter the Lett, The
Stronger Vessel, The (ss)
Summer Holiday, A

Three Daughters of the Lawyer, The (ss)
To Any Lengths
Two Bodies on a Barge (ss)

Under the Hammer (ss)
Unlikely M. Owen, The (ss)

Yellow Dog, The

4 responses

  1. Mike is quite right about reading Maigret in French. As a matter of fact, the few English translations I’ve read have been disappointing in comparison. That’s why I look forward to sampling the new translations, but I’ll be sure to read the French originals first.

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  2. For the record, the Maigret works including the short stories total 103. This month, Penguin is starting a project to publish all the novels in new English translations.

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    • A reminder to those English speaking readers who are looking to boost their reading comprehension in the French language: Simenon is a great way to improve your skills and at the same time to enjoy a good story.

      The value of reading genre books is that, although the vocabulary might be more specific (in this instance) to police procedures (in France), those procedures also tend to reoccur in the series, rapidly becoming very familiar.

      If you can do it (even if a bit plodding), read it in the language originally written by the author.

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    • The list of Maigret novels I have read is impressive but the list of Maigret novels I have not yet read is even more impressive. I found that I could find unfamiliar titles by visiting all the libraries in the area. Now, of course, most of the libraries maintain a system-wide catalogue accessible through the internet. Yet, even with the ease of checking, I still have not found many, many of the Simenon books.

      In association with this new release by Penguin, I would love to see a comprehensive online presence for all the Simenon titles. Maybe this would be a good one to apply a minimum download fee to promote widespread enjoyment of this author. I don’t know about you, but I hate to pay too much for a book I read in less than a day.

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