Thursday 21 December 2017

Christmas Read ~ A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon

Penguin Classic
23 November 2017

My thanks to Ruth Killick Publicity for my copy of this book

From 2013-2019 Penguin is publishing new translations of all 75 Maigret novels, the work of a team of the world's top translators, This unprecedented translation project offers readers a new opportunity to discover the 'extraordinary master pieces of the twentieth century' (John Banville).

In November for the first time, Penguin published the three stories together, in a new translation by David Coward. This seasonal collection features Inspector Maigret and other characters from the Maigret novels in three separate cases:

A Maigret Christmas
Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook
The little Restaurant near Place des Ternes: A Christmas Story for Grown Ups

I have to admit from the offset that I haven't read any of the Maigret stories before. Having got that confession out of the way, let us concentrate on this selection of three Maigret Christmas stories which have been newly translated.

Perhaps slightly longer than a short story and more of a novella, A Maigret Christmas, sees the indomitable Maigret involved in clearing up a mystery right on his doorstep and whilst the great man has been looking forward to a lie-in on Christmas morning, it would seem that fate has decreed otherwise.

Again more of a novella, Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook, gives us an insight into the workings of Maigret's police department as the action takes place on Christmas Eve in the police control room. And whilst Maigret does not make an appearance in this story, there is still evidence of  his influence in the way the operation works. To say more about the Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook would, I think spoil the effect.

And the third and final story, which is much shorter is The little Restaurant near Place des Ternes: A Christmas Story for Grown Ups which sees a festive charitable gesture turn into something far more significant, and which heralds some important changes. Again, Maigret doesn't make an appearance in this story but as ever the characteristics of this author's fine skill with words is in evidence.,

For anyone, like me, who haven't read any of the Maigret stories before then this taster is a good introduction to George Simenon's most famous detective and to his unique style of writing and sharp observation of the human psyche. The classic nature of the stories stand out and it is testament to the strength of the original writing that the stories continue to be so successful. The order of Maigret's sleuthing belongs to that golden age of crime detection when everything seemed to be concluded with no jagged edges or blurry boundaries and as such makes a welcome change from today's more grittier crime investigation novels.

A Maigret Christmas is beautifully translated by David Coward, and is elegantly produced with an evocative cover, which is so reminiscent of France. Without doubt, this is a lovely introduction to classic crime and to a worthy hero.

About the Author

Georges Simenon was born in Liege, Belgium in 1903. Between 1931 and 1972 he published five novels and twenty-eight short stories featuring Inspector Maigret. This trio of festive tales,Un Noel de Maigret, was originally published in 1951 when Simenon was living in the USA. He died, in Switzerland in 1989.


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