More of Maigret.
Thanks to the various capricious translations of Georges Simenon’s novels, after reading “Le Charretier de la Providence” I could send you in the direction of “The Carter of the Providence,” (as recently and faithfully put by David Coward, the award-winning Dumas translator) – but you could just as easily stumble into older editions under the title of “Lock 14,” or “The Crime of Lock 14,” or the even looser “Maigret Meets a Milord.”
In any case you will find a female corpse fished from the waters, (that perennial murder-mystery starter), strangled bodies, canals and barges, and an unlikely English Lord and yachtsman called Sir Walter Lampson, whose cartoony characterization bothered me by its thinness. Like any other Maigret, everything flows well enough, but many of the dual identity devices are much better used in another of Maigret’s TEN novels to appear in 1931: “M. Gallet Decede,” or “The Death of M. Gallet,” or “Maigret Stonewalled” or “The Late Monsieur Gallet.”
This one is a great read, one best not spoiled beyond saying that the body of a M. Gallet makes Maigret turn introspective and try to really dig into Gallet’s identity. So many crime novels start with the corpse and move on from there, but here Maigret will not let go until he achieves some understanding of who the victim was when alive. What he finds is fitfully surprising.
Alert readers will catch on to an awful lot of mentions of flies buzzing in the sweltering heat (no home air-conditioning yet!), as well as a few mildly anti-Semitic lines of the type that I’ve noticed before on young, pre-war Simenon. They’re perhaps best taken by charitable fans as accurate jot-downs of conversations of the period. After all, had Simenon pretended that there was no anti-Semitism in the bourgeois conversation of 1930s Frenchmen, he would have failed as an observer.
RATINGS: GOOD ENOUGH and COOL!