Georges Simenon: Maigret et les Vieillards aka Maigret in Society (1960)

Last year I felt the urge to read some Maigret and got four books. I reviewed the first Un Noël de Maigret aka Maigret’s Christmas. I liked quite a few things about it and since they are all short, under 200 pages, I thought I might try another one.

I’m not sufficiently familiar with Simenon’s Maigret novels to know which of the two that I have read is the more typical one. All I can say is that I liked the first but I’m completely underwhelmed by the second.

In Maigret et les Vieillard aka Maigret in Society Maigret has to solve the murder of an aristocratic ex-ambassador. He has been shot four times, in his own apartment, in the middle of the night. His old servant found him towards the morning and reports the murder at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Maigret has the pleasure to interview people belonging to the Parisian High Society. A breed he isn’t exactly fond of. Although – typical for Maigret – he never judges people, we still understand how much he disapproves of them and thinks they are all a bit odd.

The Count had a “lover”, a princess, who was married to someone else. For over fifty years he wrote a daily letter to the princess which she would promptly answer. They had intended to get married after the death of her husband which had just occurred before the murder.

Despite the strange habits and a few questionable things he discovers, Maigret doesn’t see a motif or find a suspect.

I’m not sure whether this is a trait of Simenon or the Maigret novels but 80% of the book consists of dialogue. The lack of description and scenes was not to my liking. I love good dialogue but it was a bit average. He got the different talking styles of the people very well but the exchange wasn’t very interesting.

All in all I cannot recommend this novel. I’m also not keen on a detective who smokes a pipe and whose homey wife stays at home waiting for him with the dinner and his slippers …

The thing that I found most interesting is the fact how the books are rooted in their time. The mentioning of the death penalty startled me at first and then I vaguely remembered that the Capital punishment existed in France until the 80s. Should you, for one reason or the other, feel nostalgic about the 60s in France, you might like this.

Since I still have two other books sitting here, my final verdict is outstanding… I already have a feeling that I will have to look somewhere else for a detective series that is really to my liking or stick to those I already know. I think I need to get back to Simenon’s romans durs. They are definitely worth reading.