Review: Bury Your Dead

Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Gamache #6), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2010.

Summary: Gamache and Beauvoir are on leave after an attempt to rescue an agent goes terribly wrong. As each faces their own traumas they get caught up in murder investigations in Quebec City and Three Pines.

Armand Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir are wounded and desperately in need of healing in both body and mind. Young Agent Paul Morin, who we met in the previous novel, had been kidnapped while his partner was killed. The kidnapper, on an untraceable phone, tells Gamache that Morin is strapped to a bomb which will detonate in 24 hours, or if he and Gamache stop talking to each other. While Gamache talks, the team, with a critical contribution by Yvette Nichol, discovers both Morin’s location, and a much bigger plot in which this is a diversion. Gamache leads the raid to rescue Morin, which turns out to be an ambush. Agents die, and Beauvoir is wounded as is Gamache, nearly fatally, as he rescues a downed agent. He recovers enough to lead the cortege, but their wounds, their memories of the ambush and the loss of fellow officers remain to be healed. These are among the dead to be grieved and buried and the tale of the kidnapping, desperate investigation, and fatal raid are gradually unfolded over the course of the novel as each remembers fragments and re-tells them.

Gamache has gone to stay in Quebec City with his old Chief, Emile, who had mentored him. It is the time of the Winter Carnival. To distract himself, Gamache and his German shepherd Henri go to the Literary and Historical Library, an archive maintained by the English community amid a sea of French-speaking Quebecois. He spends time investigating a historical battle until–you guessed it–a murder happens in the basement of the library. Augustin Renaud, considered by many an old crank seeking the burial place of Champlain, Quebec’s founder, had asked to speak to the Lit and His (as it was called) board and was refused. The next morning, the phones were out of order, and the repairman found the cause. A dead Renaud had been buried in the basement, cutting the phone line. The local inspector asks Gamache to assist, with the board as prime suspects, and a growing trail of evidence that pointed toward the possible burial place of Champlain. Meanwhile, dead of night walks with Henri and conversations with Emile don’t, of themselves heal Gamache but create the space where he can.

Meanwhile, Beauvoir has returned to Three Pines. He and Gamache had arrested the murderer of a hermit hidden deep in a forest near Three Pines, as told in the previous novel. Yet persistent letters to Gamache of a villager with one question, lead him to ask Beauvoir, ostensibly there to recover, to make sure they had arrested and convicted the right suspect. Beauvoir, initially convinced that they had the right person in custody, begins to uncover evidence and question assumptions, leading to doubts of his own, and the disturbing possibility that the murderer is still in Three Pines. Meanwhile, the most unlikely relationship between him and Ruth Zardo, continues to unfold as Beauvoir processes his own trauma.

Penny masterfully weaves narratives of the search and rescue attempt that went so horribly wrong with the “informal” investigations in Quebec City and Three Pines. Will Gamache find the murderer of the buried Renaud? Will he unravel the mystery that has stumped so many of the burial place of Champlain, and what does the Lit and His have to do with it? Will Beauvoir satisfy the doubts he and Gamache have, or find the real murderer of the hermit? And will any of this help the two of them heal and let the dead lay buried?

One glimpses in Penny’s account what post-traumatic stress can be like for peace officers when their worst nightmare comes true. Penny portrays the wisdom of friends (or whatever you might call it with Ruth) who create the safety where trauma can be faced without trying to pry it open. And we glimpse two men struggling and willing to face the possibility that they had subjected the wrong person to the pain of arrest, trial, and imprisonment. Having survived an ordeal that went terribly wrong, we see a remarkable quality in these two men, the facing of mistakes and the growing and learning from them.

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: The Brutal Telling

The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Gamache #5), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2009.

Summary: The body of an unknown man is found in the bistro of Gabri and Olivier, and Olivier is the chief suspect!

Olivier has been secretly visiting the cabin of a hermit living in a self-built cabin hidden in the woods near Three Pines. He brings groceries, shares stories, and is repaid with carvings and other items in the hermit’s possessions. The night after his last visit, the hermit’s body appears in the bistro jointly run by Gabri and Olivier, found by neighboring bookstore owner Myrna. The hermit has been brutally murdered with a skull-shattering blow to the back of the The hermit is unknown to anyone else in the village and when questioned, Olivier denies knowledge of him as well.

But how did the body get to the bistro? Who was the man? Why was he killed? And why is Olivier lying? These are questions Inspector Gamache and his team, joined by a young local officer eager to learn from Gamache, Paul Morin. It turns out that the body was placed in the bistro by the new owner of the Hadley house, Marc Gilbert. The Gilberts are turning it into a spa that will compete with Gabri and Olivier’s bistro and B & B. But Gilbert doesn’t appear to be the killer. He found the body in his foyer and moved it to the bistro. But who deposited the body at their doorway?

There are other suspects. Roar and Havoc Parras are part of a Czech community. It is revealed that the hermit had Czech connections. Roar has been cutting a trail for the Gilberts getting closer and closer to the hermit’s cabin. Havoc is an intelligent young man, seemingly content with working in the bistro, far below is potential. Gilbert’s father Vincent, a seemingly saintly figure who has worked with the mentally disabled, yet emotionally manipulative, just happens to show up, literally out of the woods.

Still, as clues emerge and the cabin is discovered as the murder scene, Olivier emerges as the lead suspect, even as his answers continue to be evasive. Gamache learns of his estranged relationship with his father and the extent of his wealth. He owns much of Three Pines. Where did that money come from?

Gamache’s inquiries focus around a set of valuable carvings made from a redwood from an island off of British Columbia. He even goes there and comes back knowing who the murderer is.

Meanwhile Penny continues to develop Peter and Clara Morrow. As Clara prepares for a debut show with Dennis Fortin, he drops a homophobic remark. She debates whether to say something and risk her future. Moral dilemmas result for both Clara and Peter. Clara know Fortin could cancel her show. Peter is conflicted as he sees her success eclipsing his own. What does integrity, loyalty, and a marital bond require?

The story explores the relationships of fathers and children. Some of these had shattering “brutal tellings.” Penny explores the shaping influences of fathers on children and the dangers of festering anger and how murder begins long before the act.

It seems each of these get better than the ones before, and this has a number of “unfinished” elements that leave one wondering “what’s next?” I look forward to how Penny will unfold this tale!

Review: A Rule Against Murder

A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache #4), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2008.

Summary: The Gamache’s getaway to a peaceful lodge is interrupted, first by an unloving family reunion, and then by the death of one of the family, crushed under a statue. Meanwhile, the naming of a child forces Gamache to face his own family history.

Manoir Bellechasse is one of the most exclusive and peaceful getaways in Quebec, and just a stone’s throw from Three Pines. Armand and Reine Marie Gamache have come here for anniversaries for many years, reveling in the hospitality of Madame Dubois. Displaced by a family reunion of a demanding and unhappy family, they are once again in the smaller back room where they had spent their first visit to the auberge. They are treated by the family as “shopkeepers” who didn’t belong. They observe and befriend the strange child, Bean, whose gender is unknown. S/he is Mariannas’s child, a quirky single mom. There is Thomas, the seeming business success, Julia, perfect it seems in every way, but recovering from divorcing her husband, in prison for securities fraud. They talk disparagingly of “Spot and Clare” called the greediest of all. Given this, imagine the surprise of the Gamaches when they discover that Spot and Clare are Peter and Clara Morrow, artists from Three Pines who have become good friends. The family is together for their mother Irene, and their barely tolerated step-father, Bert Finney. The father, Charles Morrow had died some years earlier and would be remembered by the unveiling of a statue that Manoir Bellechasse agreed to give a home in exchange for a substantial gift.

The place to which they have come offers peace, attentive hospitality, and safety, away from the world’s troubles. Madame Dubois and her deceased husband turned an old hunting lodge into a premiere getaway. She remembers her husband in every corner of the inn. Pierre Patenaude is the maitre d’ and along with Chef Veronique are the two permanent residents, alongside Madame Dubois. Pierre oversees the wait staff, young people from all over English-speaking Canada to learn French, and the skills of serving and attending to the needs of guests. Most are trying to “find” themselves. One, Elliot from Vancouver, the same city as Julia, is the exception to the rest who are grateful for Pierre and Veronique’s attentions. He is determined to defy Pierre.

The statue of Charles is unveiled, surprising all with its expression of sadness. That night, the family’s ugliness unfolds in front of the Gamache’s. Julie throws a cup to the floor, crying out “Stop it, I’ve had enough.” and proceeds to eviscerate each of her siblings, including Peter, who she calls cruel and greedy. She concludes by looking around at all of them, and says “I know Daddy’s secret.” Overnight, a terrible storm hits. The next morning, Gamache is aroused from his breakfast reveries by screams, coming from the gardener, Colleen, who has found Julia crushed beneath the statue of her father, arms out as in an embrace.

The question is not only who could have done this but how. The heavy statue would be impossible to push off the pedestal. Furthermore, there were no marks on the pedestal. Even the sculptor has no explanation for this. Gamache, de Beauvoir, and LaCoste gather, and patiently unravel the stories of the family, and those who work at the inn. But “how” eludes them.

Meanwhile Gamache wrestles with his own family’s past, thrown in his face both by his son Daniel, and by the Finney family. His father had been a pacifist, and had been accused of lack of courage. This is brought up by the family in their anger and grief. But his son has gotten their first. The son wants to name their first child, if he is a boy, Honore’, Gamache’s father’s name. Because of the disgrace with which his father was regarded, Armand opposes this, at the risk of estranging his son.

Penny continues to develop Gamache, exploring the ways his father’s life, who he lost at eleven, shaped who he is. We also discover that Peter Morrow may be a more complicated character than we thought, the one other character in a previous murder that Gamache thought capable of becoming a murderer. The conversations between him and Gamache offer Peter the chance to expose the complications of his story.

After the intricate plot and tense climax involving Bean, Gamache sits with Bert Finney on the dock by the lake. Throughout the book, it was thought that Bert, an accountant was doing his sums. It turns out that he was, counting his blessings. He leaves us with a stunning piece of wisdom:

We’re all blessed and we’re all blighted, Chief Inspector,” said Finney. “Every day each of us does our sums. The question is, what do we count?”

Review: The Cruelest Month

The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Gamache #3), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2007.

Summary: Gamache returns to Three Pines to solve a murder during a seance at the old Hadley House while forces within the Surete’ (and on his team) plot his downfall to avenge the Arnot case.

It’s April and Three Pines is coming to life. It seems that the greatest danger is getting between a mother bear and her cubs in the nearby woods. Then Jeanne Chauvet arrives at Gabri and Olivier’s bed and breakfast. She is a Wiccan and Gabri and Olivier convince her to hold a séance on Good Friday evening. Not much happens except that Monsieur Beliveau, the grocer, proposes doing a second séance at the old Hadley House, empty since the last murder associated with the house. Among those present are Odile Montmagny, Gilles Sandon, Monsieur Beliveau, Jeanne Chauvet, Hazel Smythe and her daughter Sophie, and Madeleine Favreau. Madeleine has only lived in Three Pines a few years, coming to stay with her schoolmate Hazel who always adored her after a divorce and a cancer diagnosis. Really, just about everyone seemed to adore her, save Odile who is jealous of her husband’s attraction to her. During the séance, there is a sudden thump, and when the light go on, Madeleine is dead with a look of terror on her face. Apparently not everyone adored Madeleine. Subsequent tests find a lethal dose of ephedra in her bloodstream. And gradually as the case unfolds, it emerges that all the above named had motive to wish her dead.

Gamache and his team are assigned the case. And despite her attitudes and suspicion that she is part of the conspiracy to bring down Gamache, he takes her on his team. Before his departure is good friend Michel Brebeuf warns him of the growing storm of the allies of Inspector Arnot, who Gamache pursued because of his corruption, violating the codes of loyalty in the Sûreté. About the time of a late winter storm in Three Pines, the storm breaks in the form of a series of news articles casting suspicions on Gamache and his children. In one of the more exciting finishes of a mystery, the two plots collide at the old Hadley House as Gamache’s revelation of Madeleine’s murderer is interrupted with the revelation of those conspiring against Gamache.

Penny continues to develop Peter and Clara Morrow and Ruth Zardo. Clara is absorbed in her painting, preparing for the visit of an art dealer. Peter, also an artist, helps her break through a “block” and the result is so stunning that he realizes that she has surpasses him, sowing a seed of jealousy. It will be interesting to see where Penny takes this. Zardo features principally as the guardian of two goslings, one she helped hatch, only to discover that she sealed its death by not allowing it to struggle out of its shell, a parable of loving too well.

Gamache’s self-possession (except for when his children are attacked), his lack of overweening ambition, and the affection he has not only for his wife but his team make him a study in leadership. Penny’s ability to continue to develop her characters and maintain a sense of suspense, even while continuing to unfold the beauties of Three Pines evidences her skill as a writer. I only wonder why they don’t tear down the old Hadley house. All this leaves me looking forward to the next…and the next. What a delightful thought to realize I have thirteen to go (and Louise Penny might right some more before I get there)!

Review: All I Did Was Shoot My Man

All I Did Was Shoot My Man (A Leonid McGill Mystery #4), Walter Mosley. New York, Riverhead Press, 2012.

Summary: The release from prison of a woman framed in an insurance heist sets loose a string of murders, including an attempt on McGill’s life, even while he tries to find out who is behind the heist and the murders.

Eight years ago Leonid McGill was hired as a fixer to plant evidence in the storage locker of a woman, Zella Grisham, already arrested for wounding her boyfriend, who she caught with another woman. The evidence connected her with a heist of $58 million involving an insurance company. Now working as a New York private investigator, he works to get her released early and started in a new life. She doesn’t know he set her up.

Then people connected with the heist start getting murdered. He hides Zella away with a friend who owes him. Two foreign hired guns break in on McGill and his wife while he is sleeping. Impressively, the foreign guns end up dead. All this fuels McGill’s passion, or desire to atone for his wrong. Zella deserves better. Despite a warning from a detective in the NYPD, he pursues the case to find out who is masterminding the killings, and perhaps the heist.

McGill’s efforts to atone are not limited to his cases. His wife struggles with depression and drinking. Toward the end of the novel, his absentee, Marxist-revolutionary father gets in touch (there is significance to the name Leonid). His blood son’s lover is an ex-hooker from Belarus. He is trying to save his Katrina’s son Twill from pursuing a life of crime by training him as an investigator. Turns out he is good. Sent to investigate a rich family’s wayward son, he discovers there is far more to it than a case of falling in with the wrong people.

Walter Mosley is considered the dean of Black crime fiction writers. This might be described as New York noir, by turns gritty and sophisticated, moving from the streets to high powered corporate offices. There is quite a bit going on in this book, and a twisty primary plot. I’ve seen criticism of the one-dimensional female figures, and apart from troubled Katrina, this seems true–the men, even the bit players seem more interesting. For me, the most interesting part is McGill’s misdeeds (and current appetites), his sense of the wrongs he’s done, what can’t be undone and what he must try to do, if he can live long to do it.

This is my first Mosley read. Some like his Easy Rawlins stories better. With my limited exposure, I have to say interesting, but not at the top of my list of crime fiction writers, but the jury is not in.

Review: A Fatal Grace

A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur, 2006.

Summary: An unliked but aspiring author comes to Three Pines and is murdered in front of a crowd at a curling match yet no one sees how it happened.

CC de Poitiers has just published a book, Be Calm, a mishmash philosophy of enlightenment through the suppression of emotion, symbolized by the color white. She hopes to launch a whole line of fashions and accessories around this idea. Yet for one maintaining control of emotion, she manages to make herself hateful to everyone around her–her lover and photographer Saul, her husband Richard Lyon, her daughter, Crie, and the people of Three Pines, where the family has purchased the old Hadley home.

She manages to disrupt the holiday cheer of the village, first by brutally silencing her daughter’s beautiful singing in church on Christmas eve, and then by dying in front of everyone at a traditional curling match following a holiday breakfast. Only it wasn’t a natural death. It was murder by electrocution, when she stood up to straighten a lawn chair askew. Yet none of the witnesses saw anything, and an electrocution of this sort was difficult to achieve, requiring a number of improbable factors to coincide. Who did this, and how, and why? Several items become key pieces of evidence–an ornament of the three pines with the letter L inscribed, a discarded videotape with one section distorted from repeated pauses, and an old pendant of a screaming eagle.

Gamache is called in, his second case in Three Pines. He had been reading an unsolved case file of a homeless vagrant woman who had been strangled in Montreal. Seemingly unrelated, Gamache and his team will discover the two cases are connected. Gamache will also discover that an earlier effort, the Arnot affair, to deal with corruption in the Surete is not over, that there are maneuverings going on to bring him down. One sign of this was the assignment of Agent Yvette Nichol to his team unrequested after her disastrous performance the last time she was in Three Pines. One compensation is a young detective, Robert Lemieux, who seems a quick study and fits in well with the team.

Some of the finest writing comes in the conversations of Gamache with Emilie Longpre, one of the “Three Graces” painted by Clara Morrow, with evidence of a fourth, missing Grace. The three include her, “Mother” Bea Meyer and Kaye Thompson, friends through life. Emilie is not “L,” whose son died young and was remembered by her for a signature violin piece he’d learned. She had been moved by Crie’s singing, and when she heard CC’s attack on her, was troubled by her failure to come to the unusual girl’s defense.

It’s not all conversation. There are drives through blinding blizzards, the panic of being trapped in a burning house, and a dramatic rescue. There are flashbacks, as Gamache and Jean Guy visit the old Hadley house, which figured in the terrifying ending of the first novel.

Of course there is the wonderful cast of Three Pines, Gabri and Olivier, Peter and Clara Morrow, and the curmudgeonly poet, Ruth Zardo, whose “beer walks” each day are finally explained. For the uninitiated, there is also an introduction to curling, and the high drama of “clearing the house,” which came at the very moment CC was electrocuted.

This was the second of Penny’s Gamache novels, good enough to win an Agatha Award in 2007. One revels in reading a work with no one-dimensional characters but real people with histories, hopes and secret and not-so-secret wounds. What a joy to glimpse the comfortable, companionable relationship of Reine-Marie and Armand, so healthy and “adult.” And despite the fact that it is the site of so many murders, Penny’s description of Three Pines makes it one of the favorite places in fiction where people would love to live. I know I would.

Review: Rostnikov’s Vacation

Rostnikov’s Vacation (Porfiry Rostnikov #7), Stuart M. Kaminsky. New York: Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, 2012.

Summary: Rostnikov, on vacation in Yalta, learns that the death of a fellow investigator on vacation was murder, and that top investigators throughout Moscow are being sent on vacation at the time of a major political rally.

Porfiry Rostnikov is on vacation in Yalta. Rather, he was sent on vacation. He accepts it because it is a chance for recuperation of his wife, Sarah, from brain surgery. He meets another investigator, Georgi Vasilievich, has pleasant conversations with him in the evenings, until Vasilievich turns up dead from an apparent heart attack, only it turns out to be murder. The signs show that his killers inflicted painful interrogation first, and searched his room.

Meanwhile, his assistant Emil Karpo is investigating the murder of an East German, until he is also ordered on vacation. He stretches his departure to finish his investigation while the others on the team pursue a band of computer thieves preying on Jewish computer specialists, resulting in Sasha Tkach discovering he is all too human, failing his partner Zelach, who winds up in the hospital. He ends up joining Karpo.

What is it Vasilievich had discovered? What connection did this have with all the top investigators around Moscow being sent on vacation? Who was doing this and why, in a Moscow caught in a power struggle between Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin? And why does all this coincide with a major political rally?

You probably have a sense of where this is going. That’s what made this diverting rather than riveting. You want to see how Rostnikov and his team figure out what’s going on. There are predictable instances of things being not as they seem. Perhaps one of the reasons Kaminsky sends Rostnikov on vacation is it offers a chance to develop other characters on the team–Tkach, Karpo, and even Zelach.

This was not the most outstanding in the series. Kaminsky develops Rostnikov’s team, explores the labyrinthine maneuverings of the Kremlin with an engaging enough plot to hold your interest. Sometimes, that’s all a book needs to do.

Review: The Murder on the Links

the murder on the links

The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot #2), Agatha Christie. New York Harper Collins, 2011 (first published in 1923).

Summary: A man who writes Poirot from the north of France of his life being in danger is found dead by Poirot under circumstances similar to another murder many years earlier that is key to Poirot unraveling the case.

For golfing fans, I hate to disappoint you, but apart from a murder taking place in a grave dug where a bunker for a golf course was to be sited, there is little about golf in this mystery. What you will find here is Agatha Christie at the height of her powers in one of her early Poirots, creating an intricate plot taking us in a succession of turns and suspects before the revelation of the true murderer.

I won’t take you on all the plot turns but will lay out enough to hopefully entice you to read one of Christie’s best. Hercule Poirot is in England with his companion, Arthur Hastings, when he receives a letter from the north of France from millionaire Paul Renaud, speaking of his life in danger, and requesting Poirot’s help. Poirot and Hastings immediately depart, only to arrive with the police on scene, investigating the murder of Monsieur Renaud. Madame Renaud had been found tightly bound by two strangers who questioned Monsieur Renaud and then took him out. His body was found in a newly dug grave stabbed in the back with a letter opener given to Madame Renaud by her son Jack, who had been sent to sail to South America.

Part of the fun in this story is the rivalry between Poirot and Giraud, the Sureté detective who crawls around everywhere but dismisses the piece of led pipe near the body, the dismissal of Jack to South America and the chauffeur, leaving only three female servants and an old gardener, a door left open, a piece of paper that was part of check with the name “Duveen.” Who was the mysterious visitor in Renaud’s study the evening before his death? Why payments of 200,000 francs from him into Madame Daubreuil’s account, a neighbor who frequently visited? Why were their footprints matching the gardener’s boots in one bed, while the other had none?

While Giraud keeps investigating, Poirot, troubled with similarities to a murder involving a Madame Beroldy, goes to Paris. Meanwhile, a young woman, “Cinderella” who Hastings previously met runs into him, hear’s the story of the murder and wants to see the scene. Afterward, the murder weapon goes missing, only to turn up in the back of a second corpse, a tramp dressed in nice clothes that in fact had died long before the weapon was thrust into him.

Then we learn that Jack had actually been in town the night of the murder. Jack was in love with Marthe Daubreuil, Madame Daubreuil’s daughter. We also learn that Jack’s father had changed his will, cutting Jack out because he insisted in his love affair, even though he had a girl he dumped, the twin sister of “Cinderella,” Dulcie Duveen, the woman who had been in Renaud’s study the night he was murdered.

As you can see, there are a whole host of suspects. Giraud fixes on Jack Renaud, who all but admits to the crime. Yet Poirot is not so sure. Not all is as it seems, but this plot has more twists and turns before the denouement, including a period where Hastings, for love, works against Poirot. This is one you want to read closely, paying attention to the clues, following the turns, trying to spot the red herrings. This is great, good fun–Christie at her best!

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!