Friday, November 9, 2012
Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book Friday: MAIGRET'S CHRISTMAS by Georges Simenon
If it's Friday, it's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book Day. My entry this week is a book that sounds Christmasy but really isn't. MAIGRET'S CHRISTMAS by the oh-so-prolific Georges Simenon is an anthology of Maigret stories I picked up years ago. It settled unto my shelves and there it remained, un-read. (I'm not especially fond of short stories so I held that against it I suppose.)
Eventually though, I picked it up and read it (along with a bunch of other Maigret stories) and discovered for myself what other readers had, no doubt, known all along. Simenon was a born story-teller. But thanks must go out to Patti Abbott for reminding me, a few weeks ago, that I hadn't re-read Maigret in a while.
Speaking of Patti, don't forget to check out her blog, Pattinase, for today's bevy of Forgotten Books.
MAIGRET'S CHRISTMAS has nine wonderful crime stories which really have little to do with Christmas except that the foul play occurs during that particular holiday week. We all know that Christmas can be a very stressful time...
My favorite of the stories is the last, MAIGRET IN RETIREMENT. This one has an almost Victorian Gothic feel to it and I could have gladly kept reading on and on had the story continued - its sinister magic was that potent.
Here are Maigret and the Mrs. in comfortable retirement in the country (he is even wearing wooden clogs - for goodness' sake!) sitting around on a hot summer afternoon, when an old and very imperious woman - dressed in black from head to toe - arrives on their doorstep insisting that only Maigret can solve the mystery surrounding the recent drowning death of her granddaughter.
Intrigued, in spite of himself, Maigret agrees to investigate. He travels to the village of Orsenne and comes across as Gothic a mish-mash as Charlotte Bronte might have invented- or more likely, her sister Emily. Throw in some aspects of Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe, blend it all together and the result is this gem of a story. (Well, I exaggerate, but you'll know what I mean.) It becomes obvious to Maigret (and to us) almost immediately that the enormously rich Malik family (headed by an old school chum of Maigret's - much to the detective's consternation) is hiding some nasty secret.
Don't be fooled by the pleasantly bucolic beginning of this story:
'Madame Maigret, who sat shelling peas in a glowing shade where the blue of her apron and the green of the pea pods made rich patches of colour, Madame Maigret, whose hands were never idle, even at two in the afternoon on the hottest day of a sultry August, Madame Maigret, who watched her husband as though he were a babe in arms, had begun to worry.'
Read on, my friends, read on.