I’ve created this little reading project to collect and read all 75 of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels as Penguin republishes all of them in these shiny new editions with these cool covers.
It’s been fun so far. That it will take nearly ten years for me to complete the project doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t bother Penguin who is publishing one novel per month. As long as they keep ’em coming, I’ll keep on reading them.
Simenon was something of a human word processor, writing over 400 books in his lifetime, no one really knows for sure how many since he used several names and didn’t keep track himself. He wrote each Maigret novel in about two weeks time, so while I wouldn’t describe them as formulaic, they do have a large degree of similarity one book to the next. Fortunately, a high level of quality is one thing they all have in common. They’ve all been very good so far.
Simenon was famed for eschewing literary style as much as he could in his detective fiction. He himself said that his rewriting process included removing anything that looked like literature from his books. The result is a spare, no-nonsense writing that is one of the major reasons why people who like Simenon like him, but what can you say about it?
A Man’s Head is good Simenon, though the title is inadvertently funny.
While the writing is as good as always what makes this particular book stand out is the key plot element. In A Man’s Head Inspector Maigret is convinced that he has gotten the wrong man, that the prisoner about to be executed for murder isn’t guilty. With the tacit approval of his superiors, he arranges for the prisoner’s escape in order to follow him. Maigret is convinced that if freed, the prisoner will lead them to the guilty party or parties.
It was good.
I expect the next Inspector Maigret novel will be good to.
Simenon is nothing if not consistent.