I’m starting to re-think this thing.
When Penguin announced they would publish all 75 of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels in order, one per month over six years, I took on the challenge of buying and reading them all. I’m a fan of Simenon and Inspector Maigret, the covers are really cool, each book is about 120 pages long which is just two days reading for me (one if I have an afternoon I can spend on the sofa); and they’re just ten dollars (U.S.) each.
Then Penguin started holding titles back, there was a long wait, life came along and I got behind on the task. No matter. I have decades of reading still to go.
But The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien came along.
It’s an early one, just the fourth book in the series. I’m not sure if Simenon had developed his well-known write-a-book-in-two-weeks habit yet, but this one really feels like it was written in two weeks.
To be honest, it took me a while to catch on to what was going on. Inspector Maigret observes a man getting on a train with an old suitcase. He follows the man. He switches suitcases with the man who boards a train for Bremen, Germany. Maigret goes along, still following the man. Once in Bremen, Maigret follows the man to an apartment where the man commits suicide after realizing he has the wrong suitcase. Why?
I guess I was too lost in thoughts of other things to really follow the story.
But that was okay as it turned out, because there is a scene towards the end of the novel when Maigret has gathered all of the three suspects in the same room to force one of them to confess. Two of them do, explain the entire situation, why the man killed himself, and which one of their group of six committed the murder ten years ago which led to the whole blackmail mess they were all in which I didn’t really understand until then.
But this whole Agatha Christie/Perry Mason nonsense is not good. You killed him, didn’t you? Yes, yes, I confess. Stop staring at me that way.
It’s kind of fun sometimes, but I just wasn’t impressed much by The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien.
That said there was some genuine dramatic tension towards the end, not quite a thriller but a thrill. And there were some trademark Simenon bits along the way like this one:
He summoned the waiter, paid the bill. And when he pulled his wallet from his pocket, he did something that Maigret had often seen when business men like him had their apertifs in bars around the Paris stock exchange, for they had that inimitable way of leaning backwards, throwing out their chests while tucking in their chins and opening with careless satisfaction that sacred object; the leather portefeuille plump with money.
That’s pretty good if you ask me.
The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien counts as book number seven in the 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge. I think I better get moving if I’m going to read 14 more books by the end of August.