Georges Simenon was the author of over 100 Inspector Maigret mystery stories. They were immensely popular in the 1930s through the 1960s. Inspector Maigret stories also appeared in film and TV version. Simenon and Maigret seem to have fallen under the radar in recent decades but in recent years he seems to have been rediscovered by a new generation of mystery/detective story fans. Penguin Books has begun to reissue some of those Maigret mysteries and the New York Review of Books Press has reissued some of his `hard stories', stories that did not feature Inspector Maigret. Simenon's Inspector Maigret Mystery, "The Yellow Dog" was a fun book to read and is as good a place to start for anyone wishing t discover (or re-read) Simenon.
The Yellow Dog, written in 1931, is set on a fishing town in Concarneau, France. One of the town's leading citizens has been shot. A series of murders or attempted murders soon follow. At the same time a stray, rather mangy looking yellow dog is wandering around the town. Inspector Maigret is sent to clear up the mess. In so doing he must deal with panicked locals, an irate mayor demanding an end to the affair, and a cast of characters who each, in their way, have done something to make themselves suspicious. The rest of the story involves Maigret's attempt to unravel the chain of events and find the guilty party or guilty parties.
This is a `classic' detective story in the sense that Simenon does not stray for the general formula or boundaries found in classic stories by Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. There are twists and turns in the plot, red herrings, and fake clues, but eventually justice (or some semblance of justice) is served.
What sets Simenon apart is the character of Maigret and the supporting cast. Maigret was, or seems, ahead of his times in his aversion to `higher authority'. He also seems to have a deep and clearly defined set of moral values that does not necessarily coincide with the values held by his higher ups or by those reporters or office holders that seem to second guess his every move. This personality, this ahead of its time jaundiced eye, may explain the resurgence of interest in his books.
The Yellow Dog is an enjoyable read.
Simenon`s first eleven Maigret novels were all published in 1931 - some kind of a record? - and this was the sixth of them. Maigret is already the mature, sometimes surly detective we know and love, already a Superintendent. He finds himself called to the NW coastal town of Concarneau in Brittany, to solve a series of attacks, one of which is a murder, and holes up in the local Admiral Hotel, a mildly seedy hangout for a group of local drinkers, as well as giving employment to enigmatic and waif-like waitress Emma.
Then there`s the enormous, almost spectral yellow dog of the title. which turns up after each crime.
Few writers have ever created an atmosphere as deftly, with as little fuss and few words, as Simenon. If you`ve seen Jacques Tati`s immortal near-silent French film comedy Monsieur Hulot`s Holiday, you`ll remember his detailed depiction of a seaside resort in summer, with its distinctive sights and sounds. I kept being reminded of Tati`s film while reading this book, even though it`s set in a harbour town rather than a resort, during rough, rainy weather - and with unpaved muddy streets too. But the sense of place that`s conjured up is palpable, right down to the pompous mayor and a variety of local `types`. However, what has always set Simenon apart from the herd is his consistent refusal to rely on stereotypes, and his gratifying sympathy (transferred to Maigret) for ordinary working people.
There`s a wonderful, often quietly droll humour to the almost farce-like comings and goings in this 130-page story, with Maigret a mostly monosyllabic, oracular presence, with a young Inspector hovering around him like an eager puppy, learning patience and discretion from a master.
If the last chapter relies on a great deal of Christie-like exposition and somewhat tidy tying up of loose ends, it doesn`t take away from the sheer pleasure of what has gone before. Maigret is winging it in this one, with not much more idea than the reader of how and why events are occurring - he even adimits as much himself - and one wonders if the author wasn`t to some extent winging it too. But the result is enjoyable rather than sloppy or confusing, and the stormy coastal setting takes his detective out of his pipe-and-slippers comfort zone (no calming Madame Maigret in this one).
Simenon wrote hundreds of novels, and many short stories, of a remarkably high standard. The man must have been born with a pen in hand - lucky for us.
I`d give this early Maigret about nine out of ten. It`s not one of his very best, but Simenon`s ease of description, his depiction of character in a few brushtrokes,
and his Manet-like portrayal of a weather-washed Breton coastal town circa 1930, all make for an unusual, often delightful experience.
Set in Concarneau a coastal town in Brittany, Maigret is called in to investigate a shooting. From this original crime it looks like the whole town could be in a state of siege as more attacks occur.
Maigret is in Rennes on secondment when he is called to investigate a shooting in Concarneau, so off he goes, taking an Inspector Leroy with him. Originally he is called in to investigate a shooting of a prominent and popular citizen, but shortly after his arrival Maigret knows that this won’t be the end of matters, as two bottles of alcohol have been poisoned at the cafe of the Admiral Hotel. Keeping his cards close to his chest Maigret is soon delving much deeper than just the person who was shot. Will he be able to teach Leroy the finer subtleties of detection?
Although this is a short novel Georges Simenon manages to convey in sparse language the growing fear and paranoia of the townsfolk as well as turning the screw on the suspense. With brilliantly realised characters this is a story that pulls you in and really holds your attention as you follow Maigret on his investigation, and read of the other shootings, poisonings and people going missing. Throughout this story is the mysterious yellow dog, haunting the pages like the Hound of the Baskervilles. The only thing about this story, is that I must admit that I found it relatively easy to solve.
on 13 January 2016
"The Yellow Dog ",also known in some editions as "A Face For a Clue"was first published in 1931 and is among the earliest "iMaigret"novels .It takes place in the provincial fishing port of Concarneau where a prominent local citizen ,a wine merchant of note,is shot and wounded while sheltering from the wind in the doorway of a nearby shop."Maigret" and his enthusiastic,if inexperienced assistant ,"Inspector Leroy"are sent from Paris to investigate.Soon after they arrive another local notable disappears in unexplained circumstances and another is poisoned .Partly to assuage growing political pressure for an arrest-any arrest-and partly for his own safety the Chief Inspector arrests "Dr Michaux",the surviving member of the social set around which the trouble has revolved.
"Maigret " is convinced that the key to the mystery lies in the behaviour of a mysterious yellow dog which is roaming the district ,and in the figure of "Emma",a waitress at the hotel in which much of the action unfolds.The heart of the mystery turns out to be a drug smuggling operation .
Many key aspects of "Maigret " and his methods are set out in the book.He is not a "scientific"detective like his assistant.He immerses himself in the local mileau ,explores the area and its way of life,and seeks to understand the needs of the people involved in the mystery.He is non-judgemental and does not always bother with an arrest or seek a tidy resolution to the case.The books ,and this is true here,are less "whodunit"and more "whydunit
The prose is economical and the atmosphere of a bleak fishing village crisply evoked .Like all novels in the series it is less than 200 pages and delivers its payload crisply and efficiently.The "Maigret "series is not about classic sleuthing but more about human motivation and huiman nature.
on 14 October 2015
“Don’t combine! Don’t deduce!”. With these words inspector Maigret repeatedly orders his temporary assistant Leroy to take it easy, because he quickly senses that nothing really is what it seems to be in the small harbor town of Concarneau. A night-time gunshot from the letterslot of a vacant building severely injures wine merchant Mostaguen. Soon after, retired journalist Servières disappears; blood is found in his abandoned car. Skirt chaser Le Pommeret suddenly collapses at home, poisoned.
This trio of town notables formed a foursome with Dr. Michoux, who is not a doctor but a kind of realtor and who is scared to death of being the next to come to grief… The quartet regularly had drinks and played cards at the local café and hotel ‘De l’Amiral’, where Maigret takes up residence to observe the growing confusion and fear, occasionally making a stab at investigating, but basically ruminating, absorbing impressions in the bar and the increasingly fearful town: who is the owner of the large and ugly, yellow dog spotted near each crime site, that one day even graces the hotel bar, of all places, with its presence? And who is the unknown man with the XXL shoe size?
“The yellow dog” is an early Maigret from 1931 when Simenon produced ten books in one year. This book contains several elements that return regularly in his work, incl. his psychological novels, such as inequalities rooted in the feudal past (notably the treatment of working girls and women), his knowledge and love of ships and maritime matters and the journalistic profession. Simenon was also a great lover of women and Maigret’s intrigued and worried interactions with vulnerable waitress Emma are quite endearing.
And he turns out to be right. Nothing was what it appeared to be. The crimes and incidents inflicted on the quartet go back to a scam that took place almost as many years ago as the yellow dog is old. Detective story full of twists and turns, French pathos, a US angle and the power of intuition. Formulaic climax with all suspects in one room. Whilst Maigret’s psychological novels often finish in tears, death and high drama, this Maigret has a happy ending. For Emma, not for the yellow dog, alas.
on 7 May 2015
In The Yellow Dog, Superintendent Maigret is sent to investigate a shooting in a small coastal town in France. It’s not long before there are other crimes committed in the locality and they all centre upon a group of men who frequent the Admiral Hotel. Firstly, poison is discovered in the bottles of Pernod and Calvados which happen to be the tipples of the group in question. Later on one of the men vanishes, suspected killed, and another is found dead in his home.
The chief suspect in this is a huge vagrant who has been seen lurking around the harbour. His main companion is a scruffy yellow dog who has a habit of being present at all of the main incidents.
Maigret, of course, is undaunted by the developments that are taking place on his watch. He doesn’t mind the journalists who are hungry for stories and attempt to inflame the situation at every opportunity and he’s no respecter of the prominence of those who are putting pressure on him to solve the case, especially the mayor who is trying to keep the town in order.
The superintendent goes about business in his quiet way. He forms relationships with those he instinctively feels are key characters. He takes note of the tiny little details that happen around him. He’s able to use his knowledge of people and of the behaviour of the various strata of society to put pieces together. He’s not beyond the unorthodox approach and he’s abrupt with anyone who gets in the way. In this book, he’s also working with a new policeman in his team, Inspector Leroy. Leroy is young enthusiast who is keen to do things by the book. Maigret is often rather aloof with Leroy and can be rather harsh, but he’s passing on the lessons of police work in ways that only he can and points out that there is no one approach to the investigation of crimes as each one has its own flavour. Maigret is hard and tough much of the time; he’s also warm and generous when the attention is off him – it’s a great mix.
There’s plenty of action in this case and the plot is unfolded very nicely. It’s always engrossing and Simenon throws in plenty of surprises and red-herrings to keep a reader guessing. As much as the case itself, though, it’s the observation of human nature through the inspector’s filter that make this book such a treat.
If you’ve not read a Maigret before, this would be a fine starting point. If you have, this is definitely worth a visit even if you’ve been here already.
The Yellow Dog (Le Chien Jaune) has many of the characteristics typical of a Georges Simenon thriller, even if it initially seems like there are going to be rather a few more deaths than is usual for the usually more sedate confines of a Maigret novel. Maigret, working on a temporary transfer from the Paris jurisdiction to Rennes, is called out to a small Brittany port, Concarneau, to investigate the shooting of one of the town's most important businessmen, shot in a doorway while he struggled drunkenly against the elements to light a cigar after an evening with friends at the Admiral hotel. And sitting alongside the crime is a mysterious yellow dog that appears like a premonition of doom.
As Maigret makes his entrance to meet the businessman's friends - several other people of note within the small town, all of them gathered around a bar (of course), drinking Pernod (a few drinks essential for any Maigret investigation) - the scene seems to be set for a slow-burn after-the-fact teasing out of events in the manner of La Guinguette a deux sous (The Tavern on the Seine) or another non-Maigret small port thriller, The Man from London. All it takes is time to get to grips with the provincial smalltown mentality, the rumours, the feuds and the rivalries, (several of the group seem to be having an affair with the hotel's young barmaid), Maigret letting events leisurely unravel as he downs a few Pernods and Calvados.
But, no - and much to the reader's surprise - Maigret discovers just in time that his very first Pernod, and those of his companions, has been spiked with strychnine. As it looks like each of the men seem to be under threat from an unknown person with a vendetta against them, it becomes clear that The Yellow Dog is a more exciting prospect than the usual leisurely Maigret investigation, closer to Les Fantômes du Chapelier, with its serial killer out to exact vengeance on a small group of townsfolk.
While there are crucial differences in this early 1936 Maigret novel however, the allure of Simenon's detective is in place, the Commissioner refusing to follow the usual lines of extensive legwork and deductive reasoning, demonstrating rather a wonderful ability to understand and relate to people, consider the passions that motivate them and predict the actions that are likely to ensue. It all comes together marvellously in The Yellow Dog, Simenon creating an intriguing situation with no shortage of incident that fully brings out the character, the mentality and the dangerous dynamic that can exist in small provincial towns.
"The Yellow Dog" is an enjoyable short read that was published early in the Inspector Maigret series (1931). The setting--Concarneau, a small rural town in Brittany--is one of author Georges Simenon's favorites. No fan of the petits bourgeois, here, as is repeated fairly often, Simenon writes of crimes committed by and against the big frogs in a small pond--a social group that the author particularly loathes. The story starts with the unexplainable shooting of the town's best liked citizen, followed by the attempted poisoning of several of the victim's friends. Inspector Maigret is dispatched to the scene from nearby Rennes where he's on assignment from Paris. The Inspector adopts a very laid back approach to investigating the crimes, seeming to be preoccupied with an attractive barmaid and a yellow mongrel dog who keeps appearing at the scene of the crimes. While the burghers of Concarneau grow increasingly panicky, Maigret keeps his cool and his own counsel.
The story is told mostly in narrative form and the resolution of the crimes is closely held to the last few pages of the book. Simenon includes a satisfying epilogue to assure the reader that justice can prevail. Altogether, an entertaining novel that displays the format and attitude that the author will often use in the dozens of crime stories that are to follow.
on 12 July 2014
An early Maigret mystery; number six in the books released about this famous detective.
This is a stand alone novel with the Chief Inspector away from Paris reassigned to Rennes to oversee the flying squad there. Maigret is sent to Concarneau a fishing community in Brittany to investigate a mysterious shooting at the request of the town's politically connected Mayor.
As with other stories the detective seemingly allows the actors to play out their roles while his skills interpret the baffling events which have left the local people in terror of an unknown assassin.
Beautifully evocative of the district with its fishermen, local industry and market day; the maze of alleys and tight streets add to the sense of fear created.
The drama unfolds; is the yellow dog a red herring? Maigret broods and does his own thing; even explaining to his young sidekick that it would be a mistake to draw deductions too soon.
The story even concludes with a Poriot style denouement at the close of the book. Also by the end we learn more about Maigret's character and his sense of justice.
These books are quick to read; the shorter novels easily finished in a few hours and leave you with a smile on your face.
on 22 April 2015
Another of those quickfire 1931 novels, and it's raining in Concarneau. Murders and near-murders accumulate. Maigret gives an object lesson in refusing to make deductions or even (it seems) to investigate. The mayor is going crazy. The weather is appalling. A yellow dog wanders around. The town is full of paranoia, and nothing seems to be adding up. Then, at about the three-quarter mark, the book starts to palpably shift between our feet. The impression is of a conjuring trick, triumphantly brought off. But instead of feeling cheated, we applaud, because there's something so warm and also so dark about the real back-story - something, in fact, that goes a lot deeper than a detective mystery.