Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books: Maigret and the Wine Merchant by Georges Simenon

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.

Head on over to Patti Abbott's site for more forgotten books.


Josh said...

sounds like a great read.

Scott Parker said...

This is something like the fourth or fifth reference to Simenon I have read in the past two weeks. Somewhere, the literary fates are trying to tell me something. I found my copy of the Treasury of Great Mysteries and there is a Maigret story in there. A Christmas one, no less. That's where I'll start.

And I'm intrigued by your comparison with McBain. Having just read my first McBain this year, I'm going to read some more and do my own comparison.

Since I'm a stickler for reading first books first, is that necessary with Maigret?

pattinase (abbott) said...

To think this guy could pen a novel in less time than it takes me to write a story is amazing. And that's not to mention the quality differential.
Taking next week off. See you on the 2nd if you have one.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi David,

Simenon! I used to read him all the time.

McBain! Him too.

thanks for reminding me how much I enjoy both writers.


Charles Gramlich said...

I'd definitly forgotten this one. I haven't heard about this book in a long time.


Not read Simenon since I was a kid. Got fond memories of times spent reading this guy, Doyle and Dorothy L Sayers.

David Cranmer said...

Josh, easy, enjoyable reads that pack a punch.

Scott, The story in Treasury of Great Mysteries is a good one. I guess my comparison with McBain may be a little off. 87Th is the prototype police procedural and Simenon is somewhat of an anti by the numbers crime novel. I will look forward to your more in depth

Patti, I'll be ready on the 2nd.

Terri, De nada!

Charles, I tend to forget about Maigret myself.

Gary, It's time for me to read Dorothy L Sayers again.

Barbara Martin said...

Sounds like a great book, and I'm putting this on my TBR list. Every time I come here there's something new I get a hankering for.

David Cranmer said...

Barbara, I'm just trying to return the favor because everytime I go to your blog there's a different place I want to visit.

Cormac Brown said...

I got this for Christmas 2007, a book clerk talked my wife into buying it for me. I enjoyed it, but I remember the whole time that I was reading, I was thinking, "Parisians are never this polite."

David Cranmer said...

Cormac Brown, Ha. I've been there and I would tend to agree.

eda said...