This is the only Maigret novel I have read, and in fact it is the only one I have ever found to purchase. Penguin published several of Georges Simenon’s books, and I sometimes speculate on whether my inability to find them is random or not. Perhaps through lack of interest they weren’t sold in Australia, or perhaps they were treated like pulp fiction, read and discarded, so that the editions haven’t survived through time.
This is a very short book, only 128 pages. It’s very different to what could be considered a typical crime novel, such as one by Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen, in which much of the story is concerned with developing a range of suspects, slowly uncovering clues which point in different directions, and culminating in a closed room scene in which the sleuth reveals the identity of the perpetrator, and the path by which the solution was reached. Or alternatively, a short story in the Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown tradition, where they dispense with the range of suspects and focus on the solution.
This book inverts that tradition, and it is the crime, rather than the solution, which becomes the climax of the novel. There are only 3 suspects: a husband, a wife and a sister-in-law, but we remain in the dark throughout the novel as to which will be the victim and who will commit the crime. Or even as to whether there will be a crime, because not everyone who contemplates murdering their partner acts. This is a psychological crime novel; the interest is in motivation, interpreting actions, mistaken beliefs. Is the crime due to mental illness or human nature?