Maigret and the Idle Burglar by Georges Simenon

I do love to be transported to the subtle world of 1950s Paris and Inspector Maigret. This book concerns 2 plot lines – a murder and a series of violent thefts. But the real story is about Maigret and his world-weary but humane understanding of human motivations.

A theme familiar from almost every TV cop show also runs strong – Maigret’s resigned but cynical view of the new managerial approach from the Public Prosecutor’s office (replace with the DA’s office/the Commissioner’s office/the Mayor’s office, according to genre and period). The TV version of this theme usually has the hero as an old-school detective who is seen as a  maverick by the powers that be.

All this is handled more gently by Simenon but, to my mind, more interestingly. Maigret acknowledges the limits of human agency, and justice is ever ambiguous, nuanced by circumstance and contingency. He doesn’t even go for the murderer, in this book, because he knows he won’t be able to penetrate the protective cloak of power and wealth. Much more interesting for the reader than a climactic confrontation and a ’ I would have succeeded but for those pesky kids’ moment.

In my previous notes on Maigret novels,  I have speculated on the idea of a drinking game where you drink what he drinks, as you read. This one would not have been much fun, as it happens. No beer and sandwiches or wine, just a bit of plum brandy.

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