Georges Simenon, “Maigret in Vichy”

Random find from the laundry room bookshelf. I have a dim memory of reading a few Simenon novels for French class a million years ago, and not caring much for them. But what was Maigret doing in Vichy?  I vaguely anticipated the great detective nosing about in Petain’s capital but no — this book was written in 1967 and Vichy is now merely a spa where Maigret has gone to take the waters. Apparently (this from Wikipedia, so who knows) Simenon’s war record is clouded: he managed to annoy both sides. Guess he wouldn’t be diving head-first into that territory, especially a mere 22 years after the Armistice.

So the book is slim and somewhat mechanical, but I was quite happy to spend a few hours in a pretty French spa town. The key moment for me was when Maigret, ruminating about the victim, thinks to himself, “It was as though he could not help himself, he must forever be adding fresh touches to the picture of her that he was building up.” Explicitly mirroring the author’s process.

Still, I’m left wondering — there are other spas in France. Why choose this one without even mentioning the past? I kept waiting for the long-guarded secret about who did what to whom in 1943…. Nope. Not even a shadow. In another writer’s hands this very absence would have been significant, but I’m pretty sure that with Simenon, what you see is what you get.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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