This is a two for the price of one book. At less than 300 pages for the two books they’re both fairly short, but Simenon was very good with words. He managed to make few words feel like many. What I found interesting is that each book was translated by a different person. They must be good as I struggled to tell the differences…especially after I dropped into the second book.
Maigret Hesitates is about a murder. Although the murder doesn’t happen immediately, so we’re not dropped right into the murder scene. What happens is that one member of a household sends a letter to Inspector Maigret. He and his team find out which household sent the letter and Maigret visits. He talks to almost the entire household and finds out what they are like before the murder even happens. I’m not able to recall another murder mystery where this happens. So when he is called in to find the murderer it’s a fairly simple matter of sending his team to look for witnesses outside the household. Once he has the witnesses he confronts the murderer and all is over. It’s interesting to hear the victim’s words from their own mouth before the murder occurs.
Except for when the murder occurs within the book this is fairly typical Maigret. It is a fairly gentle psychological probe to figure out who the people are and what make them tick. It’s a nice slice of Paris life.
Maigret Takes the Waters is slightly different. Inspector Maigret is known for working hard and eating and drinking well. Around his fiftieth birthday he saw his doctor and was told to ‘take the waters’ to improve his health. It’s a proper vacation where he’s told to see the local doctor, drink prescribed amounts of specific waters, eat carefully and drink only water. His wife goes with him and they do all of this together. They promenade around town and we see Madame Maigret watching her husband and observing him carefully. We see her observing him as he observes the town. They even discuss various people. When there is a murder Maigret is called in to help.
Maigret does try not to help but he’s famous and they had both noticed the victim doing her own promenade and sitting in all the same places. They had observed her as she went about her business being so sure of herself that she needed no-one to be with her.
Out of interest I googled Simenon before I started writing. Never getting further than his Wikipedia page and Google maps I made a discovery that I found startling. He was born in Liège. We were there almost exactly two years ago. Doing a lovely tour of Europe, we went from Brussels to Frankfurt for a 2Cellos concert. But the day we were due to doing this was the same day the Montagne de Bueren stairs were opened in Liège. I don’t mean the stairs themselves, what I mean is that every year they decorate them with plants. They only keep these plants there for one week and we just happened to going near there on that first day. We changed our travel plans enough so that we could stop in Liège and walk up and down those stairs. There are only 374 of them. This is actually relevant. If I’d known that Simenon had been born only a few minutes walk from those stairs I would have tried to get there. It’s about an eight minute walk and then another few minutes to the train station. I suspect we didn’t have time but it makes a nice story.
I couldn’t find both books available for sale. What I found is that there are some lovely new covers available. Here is Maigret Hesitates.