When I saw Wine Merchant (1969) sitting on the shelf at Books A Million, I decided it was time to catch up with Simenon's introspective Inspector Maigret in this classic police procedural series.
The story begins when a wine merchant is shot and killed outside the house where affluent men discreetly meet with their lovers. Maigret quickly learns that the merchant had many enemies, including the mistresses he treated with contempt, a former friend he had belittled and financially ruined, and even his wife who knew of her husband’s dalliances and apparently indulged in an affair with one of his colleagues.
A crime of passion? Probably, but who’s responsible?
An unidentified man begins calling Maigret and sending letters, condemning the inspector’s labored efforts to bring the killer to justice. After all, if everyone despised the smarmy merchant, then shouldn’t the killer be congratulated instead of hounded?
More subtle than Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct, Maigret tends to be interested in the psychology behind the crime rather than the clues and forensics. The police aspect of this story is balanced nicely with the inspector’s home life. Mrs. Maigret fusses over her husband in a loving way and this makes Maigret’s musings on the ‘whys’ of murder more meaningful.
The ending may seem a little far fetched to some but I appreciated the fact that instead of a cliché shoot out, the book lived up to the promise of getting inside the killer’s noggin and explaining the motives behind the murder.
Georges Simenon effortlessly delivers a superb study of crime. It’s a book I hope you'll find time to search out.
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