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.

14 thoughts on “Georges Simenon: Maigret et les Vieillards aka Maigret in Society (1960)

  1. You probably know that I am big fan of Simenon. I’ve read a number of his romans durs, but zero maigrets to date. I hope to get around to them sooner than later, but it sounds as though I’m doing the right thing to work my way through the romans durs first.

    • Yes, I think you do the right thing. I really think there a few Maigrets one can skip. Since I bought another two I will give them another try. And so far one out two was good. I also got three of his romans durs sitting here, guess the next one should be one of those.

  2. I must confess I have never read Maigret. For some unknown reason I’m not drawn to that series – I think I picked up the impression somewhere en route that they were a bit simplistic. My favourite French crime fiction novels are by the writing duo Boileau/Narcejac. I’ve read several of their books and loved every one. Fred Vargas has gone down easily too.

    • I think they are, as far as I see, not must-reads unlike Simenon’s non-Maigret novels or roman durs. They are really good. Boileau-Narcejac are great, really great and I did like Fed Vargas and wat to read some more. I was also quite taken with Léo Malet.

  3. I’ve studied “Le chien jaune” in school. A dreadful experience.A boring teacher and a boring book in Concarneau with rain. (I still remember it 20 years later though…)

    I have one Maigret at home, I haven’t read it yet. We’ll see.
    I’m expecting the same kind of reaction as yours because of the pipe, slippers and potery wife.

    I’ll try a roman dur one of these days, I’ll pick one on Guy’s page dedicated to Simenon.

    • The pipe and slippers are really a horrible picture. I like his charcater, he is so nonjudgemental, it’s refreshing…
      “Le chien jaune” does not sound promising and it seems to have been almost traumatic…
      I think it’s a good idea to follow Guy’s recommendations.
      Lizzy also reviewed one a while back, the same as Guy, “La neige était sale”.

  4. I’m always on the lookout for good detective novels and would love to find a series I really enjoy. Unfortunately, this Simenon series doesn’t sound right. Have you read any of Henning Mankell’s Detective Wallander books? I’m hoping to read a few soon.
    Thank you for your comprehensive & interesting review, I appreciate how honest you are in giving us your thoughts!

    • Thanks Amy. I feel always a bit bad when I have to write a negative review but it was not a good book. I think the series as such isn’t all that bad.
      I like Mankell. I discovered an Icelandic crime writer not long ago Indridason. Very bleak. Mankell is more nuanced, more psychological. Fortunately there are a few great series out there. I read Karin Fossum recently and liked her very much. Much better than Nesbo.

      • don’t feel bad 🙂 for me, I like an honest reviewer much better…even though I know that books and movies are all about individual taste, but it’s nice to have both bad and good review…it gives more perspective.

        a detective who smokes…hmm kinda reminds me of a famous detective 😉

        • True, and he also smokes the pipe, but that’s somehow different, and another era. Sherlock Holmes isn’t the homey type.
          Simenon has written a lot of books, maybe 50 Maigrets? So I think it’s only fair to tell people whcih one not to choose. Yes , it’s a question of taste but I’m sure even fans would agree that this isn’t his best one.

  5. I’ve only read one Maigret which I liked, but the stories are not overly taxing that’s for sure. I do like his non-Maigret novels, which are darker and grittier. He wrote so much I’m not surprised he has a few bombs in amongst his work.

    • That’s exactly what I thought, his work is massive and by writing a negative review I’ll help those who want to start to avoid the duds.
      The non-Maigret are grittier. I haven’t been disappointed there.

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