There’s very little mystery and even less suspense in “Maigret and the Ghost,” my first dalliance with Georges Simenon and his famous protagonist. And yet I was absolutely charmed by the French detective’s 62nd case, and Simenon’s depiction of the plodding reality of police work: endless phone calls, witness statements and interviews — with plenty of time for beer and sandwiches, and visits to bistros, naturally.
Let me refine that opening statement for the sake of clarity: this book is a mystery, but not a whodunit, even though the perpetrator of the crime isn’t revealed until its latter stages. Its length — “Maigret and the Ghost” clocks in at less than 200 pages — means that readers have a fair understanding of the culprit by the halfway mark; there are simply not enough pages for explosive red herrings. What we don’t know — what Maigret unravels — are the machinations behind the attempted murder: why was Inspector “Hopeless” Lognon of the 18th arrondissement gunned down in a Paris street, outside the home of a mysterious woman who has subsequently disappeared?
Maigret’s investigation leads to conversations with a charismatic cast of onlookers, and to a Dutch art critic named Norris Jonker, and his wife Mirella, whose home, it appears, is frequently visited by prostitutes. The novel boils down to a series of conversations, of which Maigret’s interrogation of the Jonkers is the most absorbing, as he picks away at the loose threads of their story. They’re hiding something — but is it connected to Longon?
Sometimes when I’m reading a mystery or thriller I’ll chart the dramatic trajectory of their plots as a writing exercise. That proved fruitless with “Maigret and the Ghost.” The novel really only has one pace. It’s not languid, nor is it in a rush. We’re reading to Simenon’s distinct schedule. And it’s a treat. My first Maigret — with more to follow.
Number Of Pages: 160
Published: 3rd December 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB