Maigret and the Old People, Georges Simenon. New York: Penguin Books, 2019 (originally published in 1960).
Summary: Maigret investigates the shooting death of a retired diplomat, struggling to figure out who among all the old people in his circle would have the motive and opportunity to kill him.
Maigret is called upon to investigate the murder of a distinguished retired diplomat, Armand de Saint-Hilaire. His dedicated housekeeper of fifty years, Mademoiselle Larrieu found him dead from a gunshot wound to the head and three to the body. She was the only one locked into the house with him, she in a bedroom at the opposite end of the flat.
The circle of possible suspects seems small. There is the devoted housekeeper. A nephew who will inherit the home, an antiques dealer, relatively unsuccessful and unpleasant, who Hillaire had helped from time to time with no unpleasantries. And then Maigret discovered the letters–bundled stacks of letters all from one person–Princess Isabelle of V–.
Hillaire and Isabelle, “Isi,” had loved each other for fifty years. He was below her station when he was young and so he married the Prince of V–. The love of Isi and Hillaire was never consummated. But the two exchanged letters for fifty years, every day. All those around them, including Isi’s husband and Mademoiselle Larrieu knew about the love. Yet not a hint of scandal. If Isi survived her husband, they planned after a suitable time of mourning, to marry. Days before Hillaire’s death, Prince of V– died following an accident. Who would not want to see them marry? Prince V’s inheritance would pass to his son. Housekeeper and nephew were both provided for in Hillaire’s will.
Maigret finds himself amid a circle of refined old people who seem resolved to withhold as much as they can. Maigret feels himself a youth in short pants even though he is an experienced investigator. That is until he realizes that he is closer in age to the old people than the boy. As he comes to new realizations about his season in life, he wrestles to see what he is missing that will explain the unmistakable truth of the death of Armand de Saint-Hilaire, a distinguished and gracious old man without enemies.
Reading Simenon is delightful. He spins an intriguing mystery with an economy of words, refusing to draw it out longer than needed. Just long enough for a satisfying read.
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