Review: Maigret and the Old People

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.

Review: Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse

Maigret

Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse(Inspector Maigret #58), Georges Simenon, translated by Ros Schwartz. New York: Penguin Classics, 2019 (originally published 1962).

Summary: Maigret investigates a murder of a loved and respected retired businessman, with no hint of motive from family, neighbors or associates–all good people.

René Josselin has been found dead in his apartment, seated in his favorite chair, two bullets to the heart, fired from his own pistol, missing from his apartment. His wife and daughter had been out at the theatre, witnessed by the people who sat behind them. His son-in-law, a devoted physician, had stopped by earlier in the evening for their favorite pastime, a game of chess. There had been no disaffection and the son had left on a call that ended up being a false call.

The men Josselin had sold his business to were faithfully meeting the terms, thriving, and appreciative of Josselin. Neighbors, if they knew the Josselins, spoke of them as good people, and from what Maigret can discover, they were good people themselves. As far as he can tell, everyone around René Josselin were good people, and yet Josselin had been murdered.

Then puzzling, stubborn facts emerge. Madame Josselin and her daughter Veronique do not seem entirely forthcoming. The motive obviously was not robbery but there was one other thing missing–a key to a room in the servant quarters, a room that had been empty but occupied the night of the murder. Another dead end. The fingerprints did not match any known criminal. Then there is the restaurateur who witnessed the same individual meeting both Monsieur or Madame Josselin right before the murder.

Maigret knows there is a killer out there. He struggles with caring for grieving people and the need to discover what they are hiding. Who could possibly had a motive to kill Monsieur Josselin?

I had watched several adaptations of Simenon’s novels on Mystery. I found that like many of the detectives I enjoyed the most, Inspector Maigret was both a gentleman and a thinker, careful not to jump to conclusions but willing to pursue his intuitions. Simenon unfolds a story of step by step investigation, deliberate without being plodding, that moves steadily toward a conclusion, one that we didn’t see coming until it arrived. A good story about good people–and a killer. Kudos to Penguin Classics for reissuing this series!