The great mystery in Georges Simenon’s The Late Monsieur Gallet is not who killed the title character but who was the title character.
The Late Monsieur Gallet, translated by Anthea Bell, features many classic who-dunnit elements: a wealthy victim, a wife/widow with a son who stands to inherit, a big house full of outdated furnishings, a missing body. But from the start Inspector Maigret knows something is wrong:
Maigret had an impression that he had never had before, and it unnerved him. It seemed to him that the whole truth was here, scattered round him, and everything he saw had its meaning. But to understand it, he would have had to see it clearly, not through a sort of fog that distorted the view. And the fog persisted, created by this woman, who resisted her emotions, by Henry whose long face was as impregnable as a safe, by the black draperies now on their way out, in fact by everything and most of all by Maigret’s own discomfort, out of place as he was in this house.
The woman, the victim’s wife/widow does not believe her husband is the dead man. She has not seen the body but she has just received a postcard from her husband who is away on business so she is certain the victim cannot be him.
Just who was Monsieur Gallet is complicated at every turn in Maigret’s investigation. His wife says he has worked for the same firm for ages, but the firm says he was fired 17 years ago. Where did he go all those times he claimed to be away on business? How did this double life lead to his murder?
I enjoyed this double mystery aspect of The Late Monsieur Gallet very much, though I’m not sure I would have been able to keep up with my original Monthly Maigret plan even if Penguin had kept up with their plan to publish one Maigret a month. The are entertaining, fairly quick reads at about 160 pages each, and I’ll certainly be reading more of them. Probably not 12 a year though. I could read them at the rate Simenon wrote them, three to five books a year. They each took about two weeks to write. I do hope Penguin will re-start the series soon. I’ve only got one more in my TBR book case.