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3.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 12 December 2013
Although it's great to see Simenon's Maigret series finally appearing again (especially in Kindle format), I can't help feeling that Penguin is ripping us off slightly here. The Maigret books are so slim in terms of page numbers that either the price for the print version could be lower, or they could release more titles at once and bundle them into more 'omnibus' style releases. £3.99 is just about okay for a Kindle version, but they could still be cheaper - and look at some of the foreign editions that are appearing and you know it can be done.

Either way, bringing out one title per month is going to be a long-haul for even the most patient Maigret fan, so Penguin should perhaps review the approach they are taking if they are serious about giving us all 75 novels. Six years and counting....

As far as the story goes, the early Maigrets always were a bit hit and miss. This one darts about all over the place and is quite ragged in terms of style, plot and narrative, but every writer has to start somewhere, and Pietr The Latvian is one of a handful of titles that Simenon rattled off for publication in 1931. Not sure what makes the new translation so "gripping" to be honest. It perhaps captures the raw nature of Simenon's early - slightly rushed - writing, but apart from that, hard to see what new insights it offers.

Padding the Kindle edition with a lengthy excerpt from the next title to be released really is taking the biscuit (and yes, Penguin repeat the trick in that one as well to beef up the content), and with no page numbering there is still clear room for improvement in how the publisher releases e-book versions of their texts.

So, good to see the books appearing, but we'll have to dig deep in our pockets to get the full set - and grow old doing it. Poor marketing, guys.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 November 2013
The first book featuring the lugubrious detective Maigret is a taut, tense affair that needs some attention paying to it to follow the plot which describes the search for a pan-European criminal mastermind. Being an early work it introduces locations and characters that will recur in the series and it is the descriptions of these and Maigret himself that lifts the book above the ordinary. Due attention also has to be paid to the fact that this book came out in the early 1930s and was way ahead of its time in the realistic depiction of life both within the Flying squad that Maigret was a member of, and also the Inspector's humdrum home life. In common with the majority of Maigret novels this is relatively short, which is good because it allows for a stripped down novel without an inch of flab. Beautifully translated this is a necessary read for anyone interested in crime fiction. Better books will follow in due course but for now enjoy the first instalment in an excellent series
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I enjoy the Maigret stories and have read many of them, mostly in omnibus editions, which makes the most of the novella format in which they are written. Penguin are re-issuing the whole series and this story is the first to be published. It is always interesting to read the first in a series to see how the ideas and stories develop over time and this is no exception. There is more plot movement as the scenes take in Paris and the French North coast, with Maigret spending little time at home as the chase to catch an international criminal gathers pace. Apart from being described as large, muscular and working class, there is not much to describe Maigret who starts and remains as a detective everyman, sympathetic, humane, perceptive and dogged in his pursuit for justice and the truth. The same can be said for the Scenery in which the action takes place, described with economy and yet you have no doubt that you are inhabiting the world of 1930's Paris, the Quai des Offevres or that of a coastal port, the bars and the drinks and the characters and nightlife of the french demi-monde, criminals or playboys. Simenon has created a world in which Maigret and and other characters inhabit, which is believable and inhabitable by the reader: much to the delight and pleasure of those who enjoy these stories. Pietr the Latvian is no exception: readable, enjoyable and no worse for being the first in the series.
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Although I am a great fan of crime novels published between the wars (this was published in 1930) I have never read the Inspector Maigret novels. This is the first in a long running series, reprinted by Penguin, featuring the stolid Detective Chief Inspector. The book opens with Maigret receiving a telegram from the International Criminal Police Commission, warning him of the imminent arrival of the notorious conman Pietr the Latvian. Armed with a description, Maigret heads for the Gare du Nord, where he believes he identifies the criminal leaving the train – only to find that there is a corpse discovered in the train who also matches Pietr’s physical description.

Much of this short novel is spent with Maigret doing old fashioned legwork and stakeouts. You sympathise with the fact that he has just got the stove in his office to the right temperature, when he has to set out in the cold and rain yet again, as events unfold. The man who he witnessed leaving the train is settled in the exclusive Hotel Majestic consorting with millionaires; people seem to disappear and reappear, change names and appearance and yet Maigret is patient and gradually unravels the mystery.

This is a darker read than most mysteries set in that Golden Age of 1930’s mysteries. We travel from luxurious hotels and theatres to seedy boarding houses and there is true despair in some of the characters we meet. I feel glad that I have finally met the character of Maigret and discovered his fictional world and feel sure that I will read on in the series. This is not stylistically full of flowery prose, but it is compellingly written, with a realistic sense of the underworld and Maigret as a determined and –often sympathetic - investigator.
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on 3 March 2015
Glory hallelujah – or whatever the French version would be.

I own a hotchpotch of a collection of Maigrets – many in second (or third) hand copies of those iconic green and white Penguins, plus a few hardbacks, one omnibus and all the last Penguin re-releases, totalling just under half of all the books.

There's great confusion with these, as the titles vary wildly, so it's not always easy seeing if you've already got a copy. However, after reading some of these, I've decided to simply get this entire set. Why?

Well, first simply because I adore the Maigret books – the closest we Europeans have to Chandler/Marlowe.

But second, because unlike the last short-lived reprints, Penguin are now investing in new translations – and there is a real and discernible difference. We're now into the realms of treating Simenon's books with the respect they deserve in a literary sense. Of those I've read thus far – starting with this – the translations are far better, with far more sense of the atmosphere.

It's taken a long time, but thank you, Penguin – and do keep up the good work on this series!
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I read most of the Maigret books 30 years ago in the original French when I was young and enthusiastic, so it is like starting again to read them in English (my French is far too rusty nowadays although I do still have the original omnibus edition I read rotting away in the shed!). In this, the first novel, Maigret is on the trail of the eponymous Pietr, an international conman, due to arrive in Paris by train but the situation is confused when he apparently gets off the train, leaving a look alike dead in the train's toilet. Confused? You will be until the denouement.
Pietr The Latvian was written in 1931 and, therefore, is interesting in the way it portrays the life and attitudes of the time with poor Mme Maigret preparing dinner without complaint every night for a husband who never turns up. It is a much more robust novel with a seamier side than the English country house novels of the same era as most of the characters have humble origins and some are still mired in poverty. I think this is probably the oldest "modern" police procedural I have read with its emphasis on procedure and technique and the psychological cat and mouse game Maigret plays with Pietr. It's not as pared down as Ed McBain or Peter Ylitalo Leppa's translations of Jarkko Sipila's Helsinki series (some of my favourites) but it comes close with a fair amount of action and tension packed in to a slim volume.
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on 24 February 2014
I love Maigret novels and have read them over the years as and when I could get them. I was therefore thrilled when penguin books announced they were going to release all of the inspector Maigret novels in the order they were originally published; releasing 1 of the 75 books each month.
Pietr the Latvian was originally published in 1930. Although I had read this account I have decided to return to this series and read all the books in the chronology of their accepted writing/publication.
This was never my favourite story but re-evaluating it now as the very beginning; the early reveal of who Maigret is and his methods of working it is quite fascinating. Consequently, it will be good as the series expands in order just how faithful Simenon sticks with this picture of the detective.
This is a clever story with Maigret on the trail of a murderer and an international crime syndicate. It demonstrates the doggedness of Maigret and his methods of deduction and how he enables others to solve cases.
The writing is engaging if not always as clearly expanded as more recent Police procedurals. It is interesting to see early forensic techniques and this in itself is a pleasant antidote to modern CSI style investigations. This is what I have always enjoyed about this series as well as the insights into the seedy criminal world of Paris. I am delighted to have the whole catalogue before me and this book has reminded me of what pleasures lies before me.
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on 10 April 2016
Poor Simenon.... what a stinker of a translation... and very over priced. Do not buy these, but search out the old editions in old book shops. The flavour of Paris is lost, and the whole thing comes over as two dimensional. It is odd that all the novellas have been issued to coincide with the appalling Mr Bean version of Maigret so recently foisted on us by TV. "Tail the translator, Janvier... he's up to no good!" Maigret said. His hard edged underling smiled, and turned up the collar of his coat. "Okay Chief, I'll keep on him, and hope the rest of the stories are not so badly handled."
"Some hope, " Maigret replied, as he tapped out the contents of his pipe onto the Penguin editor's desk. "I have a bad feeling about all of this, mon ami."
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on 2 December 2013
Penguin Books has undertaken to publish each of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels in a new translation, with a new one coming out each month. Published in 1931 this was the first novel in the series, and, sadly it shows. If i had read this when it first came out i don't think that i would have bothered to read any subsequent instalments.

Unfortunately this novel was just too disjointed,and the character of Maigret was just too frenetic, and I found myself rather disappointed. Fortunately I know how good the series became later on, so I will persevere with the next few volumes at least.
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on 8 March 2014
Pietr the Latvian is the first book in Simenon’s famous series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Maigret, which ran for 75 novels and 28 short stories. Maigret makes for an attractive lead character, with an assertive presence and tenacity in his pursuit of justice, pushing himself and prompting others into action and mistakes. Simenon writes in a tight, all tell and no show fashion using a workmanlike prose, keeping the story moving at a fair clip, with little in the way of character development and no derivation from the essentials of the storyline. Although the book is relatively short at 160 pages, quite a lot happens in its plot, which has enough feints and minor twists to keep the reader engaged, though its general arc is quite linear and telegraphed. And although the story was published in 1930, it does not feel too dated, other than Maigret trying to get warm by always stoking the stove in his room, partially because the story seems a little timeless and placeless. Overall, an interesting and enjoyable start to the series.
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