Book #172: La Nuit du carrefour / Maigret at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon ★★★★⅓
Source: Municipal Library
Series: Maigret (7 of 76)
Edition: Omnibus (2007), Paperback, 930 pages (French edition anthology)
Original publication date: 1931
As the story begins, we discover Maigret and his colleague Lucas have been taking it in turns questioning a Danish man named Carl Anderson, suspected for murder, for the last 17 hours without any satisfactory results. Eventually they are forced to release him, lacking any evidence to arrest him. This is a very bizarre case; Andersen lives at a crossroads outside a small village, and a man has been found murdered in his garage, in a brand new luxury car belonging to a neighbour from one of the only two other houses at that crossroads, while Anderson’s old beat up car was found at that neighbour’s garage. The murder victim is a rich Jewish merchant whom Andersen claims never to have met before. If it weren’t for this murdered man, one might think this case was a practical joke. In typical Maigret fashion, our inspector leaves his Paris office to investigate the scene of the crime and observe the residents of the three households at the crossroads; one which comprises a busy commercial garage where motorists frequently stop for gas and various repairs, another, the insurance broker’s whose brand new car the murder victim was found in and who has since been making loud noises about wanting restitution, and the strange old house with a creepy past where Carl Anderson, a displaced and penniless aristocrat who has sought to bury himself in an anonymous little place, lives with his sister Else, whom for reasons nobody quite understands, he keeps under lock and key. Once again, I was charmed by the atmospherics Simenon imbues his stories with. It really is an immense pleasure to be able to read the stories in the original French and to imagine the dialogues spoken in the various local accents, and it must be said that he is a very good writer, something which isn’t always the case for mystery writers, and is doubly impressive when one considers the author’s output (10 books in 1931 alone, 76 Maigret books over his career, not counting all the other novels he wrote). That being said, I am sure the English translations make for excellent reading as well, as they have become enduring classics. Definitely recommended. I’m reading these novels in publishing order, but am discovering this is not at all necessary since there is no running back story to speak of, so this is as good a place to start as any.