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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

The first Maigret shows Simenon had what it takes right from the start

Pietr the Latvian - Georges Simenon, David Bellos

Penguin recently announced that it will issue new translations of all 75 of Georges Simenon's Maigret books, in original publication order. The project began at the end of 2013 in the UK, and the beginning of 2014 in the US. In addition to these new translations being published in paperbacks with attractive new cover art, there are also new audiobooks.

I thought this made a good excuse to read the entire series from the beginning, so I picked up Pietr the Latvian, originally published in 1931. Maigret receives intelligence reports that the international criminal called Pietr the Latvian has been spotted making a train journey headed to Paris. The taciturn head of the Flying Squad heads off to the train station, where he spots his target, but also is alerted that a corpse was found in the train's toilet.

Because this is the first in the series, Simenon spends a fair amount of time acquainting us with Maigret, the big-boned, pipe-smoking, rumpled detective with a taste for beer, sandwiches and a roaring fire in his office's cast-iron stove. This is a very short novel, and the crimes are solved without a lot of police procedural description.


The plotting is a little on the rough side, but the descriptions of 1930s Paris are evocative and Simenon's ability to convey characters with just a few words is already obvious. I should mention that there are a couple of unfortunate comments about Jews; sadly not uncommon for 1930s novels.

While this isn't a terribly strong book in itself, it's entertaining and worth reading to see Maigret's start and the signs of the greatness to come.