Book Review: Maigret in Montmartre, by Georges Simenon

January 3rd, 2015

This is the first Maigret novel I’ve read, but the second Simenon overall — after Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, which I read a couple of years ago. Three Bedrooms was too claustrophobic and had too much navel-gazing even given its narcissistic protagonist in the throes of a midlife crisis. This Maigret book, by contrast, showcases a Simenon who has a much more evenhanded touch with his characters: the dialogue flows, the details included are only the telling ones, and you get a real sense not only of Paris at its seedy, sodden worst, but also of the routine work of police detectives and the distinctive human traits of the call girls, pimps, morphine addicts, and other people they encounter.

Do be aware that it is a period piece — the misogyny is ripe, and the homophobia is overripe — and that there are a few bumps in the road that could have been smoothed out with a few more minutes of careful editing. But that was not Simenon’s way, was it? Considering the overall smooth delivery of such racy subject material (which must have seemed very edgy indeed in 1959) and the attractive subtlety of Maigret himself, it’s easy to understand how Maigret became so popular among millions of readers around the world in Simenon’s heyday.

Related post: Simenon and Fleming on Writing.

Maigret in Montmartre at Amazon

6 Responses to “Book Review: Maigret in Montmartre, by Georges Simenon”

  1. Glenda Spain Says:

    Well done review!

  2. David Simmons Says:

    Thanks for the excellent review. This book is atypical for the series. Negative attitudes toward effeminacy and drug addiction are prominent whereas Maigret characteristically prides himself on being nonjudgmental. The extent of Lapointe’s involvement with Arlette is also unusual. Will you try some more?

  3. Tim Walker Says:

    Probably so, David. No great rush — I have a scores of books in my “to be read” pile — but I enjoyed this book.

  4. David Simmons Says:

    Tim,
    Judging from your productivity and guessing how much other stuff overflows your plate, I credit you for sampling one Maigret and one non-Maigret. That strikes me as a sufficient tasting. (FYI: there are 103 Maigret works in the series. In all, Simenon published 200 novels, 155 short stories, and 25 autobiographical texts, according to the ToutSimenon website.)

    I’ve read a lot of Simenon in response to discovering the remarkable Maigret series, but I still have read one work I would classify as great.

    Keep on a keepin’ on,
    David

  5. Tim Walker Says:

    Thanks, David. I thought I had read somewhere that Simenon actually produced even more books than that, if you count all the pulp he wrote under other pseudonyms as a young man.

    A friend recommended Dirty Snow — which I actually have on my shelf — as a great book of Simenon’s.

    You might also be interested in the links referenced in this post that I wrote a few years ago: http://tewalkerjr.com/blog/2008/04/20/simenon-and-fleming-on-writing/

  6. David Simmons Says:

    The pieces you directed me to provide interesting insights into the two authors, Simenon and Fleming.

    One last paragraph truly struck a chord:

    ‘For instance, all the critics for twenty years have said the same thing: “It is time for Simenon to give us a big novel, a novel with twenty or thirty characters.” They do not understand. I will never write a big novel. My big novel is the mosaic of all my small novels. You understand?’

    Having read 88 of the 103 works in the Maigret series, my impression so far has been that no single story is great, but the series is great.

    Thanks,
    David.

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