Hello once again my readers and fellow audio enthusiasts! I wasn’t quite sure what my next review could be after discussing my last few topics so I decided to return to a previous subject: The member of the French Flying Squad Inspector Maigret. I discussed the first book in his long lasting series back in July of last year [Inspector Maigret: Book 1 – Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon] and recently got books two and three in the series to pass the time. I decided to review book three because it seemed interesting material.
As I mentioned back during my review of book one, Maigret’s author the Belgian Monsieur Simenon was and is a respected name in crime fiction across Europe with more than 400 published books to his name. As a result Maigret has had several adaptations in film, radio, TV and theatre over the years.
The plot of book two in the series (following the somewhat confusing numbering of the modern English translations by Penguin. Why couldn’t they have been released in chronological order like it should be?) is as follows: Maigret has been tasked with solving a rather ordinary but unpleasant case. Monsieur Gallet is dead. He had been an example of middle class or bourgeois respectability selling christening cups and various other bits and pieces of silver giftware throughout Normandy with a good wife in a town in Burgundy living in a home that cost two thousand francs a month. But many parts of the seemingly easy puzzle of Monsieur Gallet’s life are in fact a lie. How will Maigret find the true solution? Can he even find connections in this puzzle? And just what led to Gallet’s unpleasant death?
This story is a very entertaining whodunnit. Simenon excellently depicts the complexities of human nature in the process, both leaving potential clues to the reader and listener and pointedly developing his characters so that they come across as people. Perhaps unsavoury or unlikeable people but people nonetheless. There is a good helping of red herrings throughout but unlike his contemporary Christie he doesn’t leave one vital clue out. Maigret also comes across as compassionate, genuinely thinking about the consequences of discovering the ‘real truth.’ Who does it benefit? He may be blunt or somewhat pointed while asking questions but this particular case definitely eats at the Inspector. To be honest? This case would make an excellent jumping on point for the curious among my readers as there is no real need to read or listen to the series in order.
As well as making Maigret himself and the potential suspects come across as distinctly human (even if Maigret does not show that many of his usual quirks), the author also does an excellent job of characterising France itself during the period of the late 1920s and early 1930s. There is much time devoted to the layout of places, the intense heat,the general feel of almost anything named in the book and the intricacies of the social orders and how that affects things. The book is very engaging despite being fairly short and I found it a very gripping listen as I waited eagerly for the next vital potential clue. I’m sure I won’t be the only one gripped by the writing style and narrative of Simenon!
The narration for this whodunnit is performed by Gareth Armstrong who I mostly know – discounting other mysteries in the Maigret series – for his involvement with audio versions of Warhammer stories such as The First Heretic, Little Horus and other similar stories. His narration is very enjoyable, easily letting you slip back in time to the France of Maigret. Suitably entertaining he is very good at performing the Inspector in all kinds of moods whilst also excellently pulling off the various accents required for the sake of the narrative from the upper class snobs all the way to the maid servants.
The age of the story can sometimes affect the use of certain words that are no longer said for various reasons but at the same time you have to take these things into account when you read old material and can’t judge these things by modern standards because in fifty years what we think of as progressive will be considered horrendously outdated.
In conclusion if you are already a fan of Maigret, are curious to try the series or enjoy traditional classic crime stories I highly recommend giving The Late Monsieur Gallet a read or a listen. It’s definitely my favourite out of the Maigrets I’ve experienced so far.