Maigret: Night at the Crossroads

A Graph Review:     50 plus highpoints to 60

Night at The Crossroads

George Simenon                           night at cross

Penguin Classics    9780141393483

£6.99  paperback

A new translation, published in 2014.     One of ten titles in this new wave of Maigret publishing in this ‘Inspector Maigret‘ format.
This title is translated by LInda Coverdale, c. 2014.  The note in the last pages shows the intention of publishing all Inspector Maigret titles, ten listed as available in this copy.             The first French edition was published 1931.

The simplicity of Simenon’s style, is enduring because character, scenery and mood are all swiftly, concisely drawn.  Noticeably, as the plot moves forward and characters and situations line up, the images and people become real and reinforced by subtly added description.  This despite some of them being a little ‘eccentric’ in todays world.   Remember this was written some eighty-five years ago.  Balancing lines, rather, contrary lines, of brief images of bird song or snatches of trees and skyline add to the filmic style of writing.

If you read original Sherlock Holmes stories then the language, content and way of life may seem a little curious but the mists and now folk-memories of Victorian London at the turn of the Nineteenth century nurture the stories of Conan Doyle (or indeed his many imitators, as he himself invited).  A similar vein runs through Maigret, as indeed Marple or Poirot plus many others of your own choice and period right up to the current television-recruited from ‘Hinterland’ or ‘The Bridge’. Each detective has his time and if a character and a plot is well written, as is Maigret, it will surpass that time.  MInd you Sherlock or Maigret’s pipe-smoking as a regular habit may not recur too soon.  Yes, I have seen a female Sherlock pipe-smoking.  Maybe a modern detective could take snuff and use it regularly in making his escape or other distracting ways.

Meanwhile Maigret uses his observation and jig-saw solving methodology to understand and solve another case.  The story roles on, you see what Maigret sees and no more.  Three houses, one with a working garage on an otherwise deserted stretch of road just outside Paris.  A stolen car from one found in a neighbour’s garage, with a body in it.  An interrogation of a Danish man of some distinguished manner and looks.  From here you follow with Maigret’s sights, sounds and actions.  What you do not get is internal workings of his brain but sometimes glimpses of anger, frustration and even physical action! The story covers a few days, or rather nights as much happens at night in the darkness of a rural, 1930s night.  Few characters but a potentially confusing plot is sorted amid a last hectic night of gunfire and car chase.  Of course there is finally an explanation of how the connections were made from visible and verbal clues. But note the human element of humour and farce tucked in.  LIfe, just as we know it……even down to the last page.

I was always a fan of Simenon’s writing.  It is many a year since I read anything of his and it is pleasing to re-discover him.  His full novels are well worth reading, possibly more so as his understanding of psychology is immense and his style is both persuasively simple and complex. The translation merits applause ( I have to say this from a non-French speaking aspect!) as period feel is throughout.

This book is 151 pages in a standard Penguin Classic format.  Main text is 12.5 points, which means it is an easy and quick read at approximately 48,000 words. This fits into a novella length, at the shorter end of a lot of crime fiction these days but the quality of writing plus the ‘Golden Age’ feel make it good value for £6.99.

Another good buy from Heffers in Cambridge, I must be biased, or don’t get around much!     the yellow dog

Some others in series:                                         Pieter the Latvian;   A Man’s Head;   The Yellow Dog; A Crime in Holland

P.S.    Have just read a news item that says Rowan Atkinson is to do two television films of Jules Maigret, filming to start late 2015.  Hurrah!!