The Late Monsieur Gallet: Inspector Maigret #2 Paperback – 5 Dec 2013
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'I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of Chekhov.' -- William Faulkner
About the Author
Georges Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium, in 1903. Best know in Britain as the author of the Maigret books, his prolific output of over 400 novels and short stories have made him a household name in continental Europe. He died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life.
Anthea Bell is the award-winning translator of numerous French and German works: from the Asterix comics to W. G. Sebald's literary masterpiece Austerlitz.
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Monsieur Gallet is a travelling salesman for a company which sells second rate silver plated items for the house. He is married to a proud, bourgeois wife, who seems to have married below her station. He is father to a surly son who, it seems, despises his father and left the family home in Saint-Fargeau as soon as he could. He shares his father's physical characteristics including the liver ailment which is driving his father to an early grave. Maigret forms a view of the deceased and of his family and he likes none of them.
Maigret is summoned to the Hotel de la Loire in the small town of Sancerre where the body of Emile Gallet is lying on his bedroom floor. He has been shot in the head and stabbed in the heart. A sad death of a sad unimportant little man from a sad family. The people are so well described you will come to the same conclusion yourself. Only at the end of the novel does he challenge his own early opinion when he measures Emile Gallet up against some of the other characters he encounters when seeking out Gallet's killer.
This is a quick read, only 155 pages, and it is written in a style absent from most modern detective novels. The victim is just as dead and in just as horrible a manner as in modern detective stories but the unraveling of who did what and how and why is very different. Maigret's detective skills are cerebral, not one for rushing about shooting people and cursing at all and sundry, just a steady, quiet, thinking through and working out the answer to this very confusing puzzle. He is often angered, even infuriated but he maintains his outward cool. Right at the end this case throws up a moral dilemma for Maigret and his decision to forego personal acclaim is not altogether surprising.
There are few, if any, red herrings. Though we are led up a garden path or two, particularly to a wealthy chateau resident occupied in his champagne making business.
Peculiar to this novel is the focus on the private life of a suburban domestic family where lies and deception unravel and not everything seems right behind the closed curtains.
We discover a complicated murder that Simenon uses to great effect in mystifying us. Maigret uses angles and measurements and a little bit of trickery with visitors to the murder room, including those who may still be trying to come through the window. There are moments when we could re-imagine this story in a Jonathan Creek episode.
What separates this early Maigret novel from other crime writers ? First, it was Simenon's third in the Maigret series, written in 1931. Already he has embarked on a style that uses the novella which gives a nod to the blossoming railway paperback industry that started in the US where the pulp fiction industry had already exploded and was now well established. This was the decade that would also see the creation of Penguin Books.
Second, Simenon has an eye for the causes of crime, particularly referencing the fact that most crime is domestic in nature and frequently has a focus on passion - both romantic and, in this case, political.
Lastly, these novels have an interesting modern feel to them even though they are over 80 years old. The motor car and train are well established as are planes and short haul flights (to be evidenced in in the next of the series).
Remember also, we are between the wars and although there are slight references to this in the 1930 series of Maigret, there is no talk yet of the impact of the Great War and what else is brewing in Europe.
Interesting Maigret Fact: Inspector Maigret and his wife live on Boulevard Richard Lenoir
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