Monday 2 July 2018

Miagret's First Case by Georges Simenon

Maigret's First Case is my second Georges Simenon book. I'm not reading the Maigret books in any particular order and so far it doesn't seem to matter. Especially as this one, #30 in the series, is a flashback to Maigret's early days in the police force and, as such, provides an insight into how his particular way of working a case came about.

One of the joys of reading a book during a particular reading challenge like Paris in July is that it encourages me to adjust the lens through which I experience the story. Usually when I read books set in other countries, I have nothing more than a vague sense of the geography or the streets the characters might be walking down. But thanks to Paris in July I googled the address where the main action occurs in Maigret's First Case - 17A Rue Chaptal.

It was seven o'clock when Maigret took possession, as it were, of Rue Chaptal....There are bustling streets full of shops and cafes where it is easy to blend in, but Rue Chaptal is not one of them. Short and wide, it has no shops and very few people use it.
All the curtains of the Gendreau-Balthazar mansion were tightly drawn, as in most of the houses in the street. Maigret loitered on one corner and then another, feeling rather conspicuous.

Luckily the Vieux Calvados on the corner of Rue Henner, almost opposite the Gendreaus', had just opened. It was the only place in the street that offered Maigret a refuge....The place itself was rather extraordinary. In this street of private mansions and expensive apartment buildings, the Vieux Calvados looked like a country inn that had been forgotten when Paris spread. The building was low and narrow with a little step down into a rather dark, very cool room with a dull pewter counter. The bottles looked as if they had been standing there for ever.

Google street view allows you to move around the street to see that, yes, it is indeed short and wide with no shops, just a couple of cafes on the corners. I could hear the cry for help from the second floor windows, I could see Minard banging on the door to try to help, and later, Maigret lurking around trying to be inconspicuous as he works his first surveillance.

I also learnt about sausages, andouille from Brittany in particular. Poor Maigret was forced to eat plates of the stuff as well as down glass after glass of calvodos while he staked out the house above. Andouille is,
a coarse-grained sausage made with pork, intestines or chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings. Tripe, which is the stomach lining of a cow, is sometimes an ingredient in the filler of an andouillette, but it is not the casing or the key to its manufacture. True andouillette will be an oblong tube. If made with the small intestine, it is a plump sausage generally about 25 mm in diameter but often it is much larger, possibly 7–10 cm in diameter, and stronger in scent when the colon is used (andouille). True andouillette is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odour related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellent to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees. (wikipedia)

Calvodos is an apple brandy from the Normandy region:
Calvados can be served as an apéritif, blended in drinks, between meals, as a digestif, or with coffee. Well-made calvados should naturally be reminiscent of apples and pears, balanced with flavours of aging. The less-aged calvados distinguishes itself with its fresh apple and pear aromas. The longer the calvados is aged, the more the taste resembles that of any other aged brandy. (wikipedia)

I enjoyed this trip through 1913 Paris with a young, newly married Maigret. I'm not sure if I will ever read all 75 books, but I'll be very happy to read whichever ones happen to cross my path. This particular one was translated by Ros Schwartz for Penguin in 2016.

I'll finish with another of Simenon's descriptions of Paris. This time Maigret had been staking out a suspect around the Arc de Triomphe.
It wasn't until eight o'clock that evening, when it was dark and the avenue radiating from the Arc de Triomphe were outlined by the pearly glow from the gas lamps, that Maigret, who was beginning to lose hope, finally found what he was looking for.
He had a golden memory of that afternoon, Paris at its most beautiful, the spring air so mild and fragrant that people stopped to inhale it.  
Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, watercolor by John Salminen

  • 1. The Strange Case of Peter the Lett, The Case of Peter the Lett, Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett (1931)
  • 2. The Crime at Lock 14, Maigret Meets a Milord, Lock 14 (1931)
  • 3. The Death of Monsieur Gallet, Maigret Stonewalled (1931)
  • 4. The Crime of Inspector Maigret, Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets (1931)
  • 5. A Battle of Nerves, Maigret's War of Nerves, A Man's Head (1931)
  • 6. A Face for a Clue, Maigret and the Concarneau Murders, Maigret and the Yellow Dog, The Yellow Dog (1931)
  • 7. The Crossroad Murders, Maigret at the Crossroads (1931)
  • 8. A Crime in Holland, Maigret in Holland (1931)
  • 9. The Sailor's Rendezvous (1931)
  • 10. At the "Gai Moulin", Maigret at the "Gai Moulin" (1931)
  • 11. Guinguette by the Seine, Maigret and the Tavern by the Seine, The Bar on the Seine (1931)
  • 12. The Shadow in the Courtyard, Maigret Mystified (1932)
  • 13. Maigret and the Countess, The Saint-Fiacre Affair, Maigret Goes Home, Maigret on Home Ground (1932)
  • 14. The Flemish Shop, Maigret and the Flemish Shop (1932)
  • 15. Death of a Harbo(u)r Master, Maigret and the Death of a Harbor Master (1932)
  • 16. The Madman of Bergerac (1932)
  • 17. Liberty Bar, Maigret on the Riviera (1932)
  • 18. The Lock at Charenton (1933)
  • 19. Maigret Returns (1934)
  • 20. Maigret and the Hotel Majestic (1942)
  • 21. Maigret in Exile (1942)
  • 22. Maigret and the Spinster (1942)
  • 23. To Any Lengths, Maigret and the Fortuneteller (1944)
  • 24. Maigret and the Toy Village (1944)
  • 25. Maigret's Rival, Inspector Cadaver (1944)
  • 26. Maigret in Retirement (1947)
  • 27. Maigret in New York, Inspector Maigret in New York's Underworld, Maigret in New York's Underworld (1947)
  • 28. A Summer Holiday, No Vacation for Maigret, Maigret on Holiday (1948)
  • 29. Maigret's Dead Man, Maigret's Special Murder (1948)
  • 30. Maigret's First Case (1949)
  • 31. My Friend Maigret, The Methods of Maigret (1949)
  • 32. Maigret at the Coroner's (1949)
  • 33. Maigret and the Old Lady (1950)
  • 34. Madame Maigret's Own Case, Madame Maigret's Friend, The Friend of Madame Maigret (1950)
  • 35. Maigret's Memoirs (1951)
  • 36. Maigret and the Strangled Stripper, Maigret in Montmartre, Inspector Maigret and the Strangled Stripper (1951)
  • 37. Maigret Takes a Room, Maigret Rents a Room (1951)
  • 38. Inspector Maigret and the Burglar's Wife, Maigret and the Burglar's Wife (1951)
  • 39. Inspector Maigret and the Killers, Maigret and the Gangsters (1952)
  • 40. Maigret's Revolver (1952)
  • 41. Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard, Maigret and the Man on the Bench (1953)
  • 42. Maigret Afraid (1953)
  • 43. Maigret's Mistake (1953)
  • 44. Maigret Goes to School (1954)
  • 45. Inspector Maigret and the Dead Girl, Maigret and the Young Girl (1954)
  • 46. Maigret and the Minister, Maigret and the Calame Report (1955)
  • 47. Maigret and the Headless Corpse (1955)
  • 48. Maigret Sets a Trap (1955)
  • 49. Maigret's Failure (1956)
  • 50. Maigret's Little Joke, None of Maigret's Business (1957)
  • 51. Maigret and the Millionaires (1958)
  • 52. Maigret Has Scruples (1958)
  • 53. Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses (1959)
  • 54. Maigret Has Doubts (1959)
  • 55. Maigret in Court (1960)
  • 56. Maigret in Society (1960)
  • 57. Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (1961)
  • 58. Maigret and the Black Sheep (1962)
  • 59. Maigret and the Saturday Caller (1962)
  • 60. Maigret and the Dosser, Maigret and the Bum (1963)
  • 61. Maigret Loses His Temper (1963)
  • 62. Maigret and the Ghost, Maigret and the Apparition (1964)
  • 63. Maigret on the Defensive (1964)
  • 64. The Patience of Maigret, Maigret Bides His Time (1965)
  • 65. Maigret and the Nahour Case (1967)
  • 66. Maigret's Pickpocket (1967)
  • 67. Maigret Takes the Waters, Maigret in Vichy (1968)
  • 68. Maigret Hesitates (1968)
  • 69. Maigret's Boyhood Friend (1968)
  • 70. Maigret and the Killer (1969)
  • 71. Maigret and the Wine Merchant (1970)
  • 72. Maigret and the Madwoman (1970)
  • 73. Maigret and the Loner (1971)
  • 74. Maigret and the Flea, Maigret and the Informer (1971)
  • 75. Maigret and Monsieur Charles (1972)
I hope this post makes sense as Mr Books & I have been suffering under heavy colds all weekend. Like Maigret at the end of this story with his major concussion, we feel befuddled and confused and probably should be keeping to our beds, but like Maigret we're soldiering on. For now.

Book 8 of #20booksofsummer (winter)
19℃ in Sydney
18℃ in Northern Ireland 😃


  1. Your list of books is amazing — I’ve read quite a few of Simenon’s tales but have never seen the complete list. Like you, I love to figure out the Paris geography that’s reflected in his novels. I especially like to walk around near the Conciergerie.

    best... mae at made

    1. Lucky you, getting to walk around the Conciergerie at regular intervals!

  2. Great post for Paris in July. Interesting information on the food specialities of France. Only read one of his books, Maigret Mystified. Get well!

    1. Thanks Lisbeth, we expect to get a cold most winter's, it's unusual for us to both succumb at the same time though! Some cosy French books & movies are a good cure :-)

  3. I've never read anything by Simenon, but I love the quotes you shared so I'm adding the first in the HUGE series to my TBR list. I doubt I'll ever read all 75, but I do like to start at the beginning. :)

    1. I have heard that the first one isn't one of the better ones so please persist. Delighted to be converting a few people to Maigret's charms :-)

  4. I feel like Paris in July is such a rich experience, with all the maps and photos and reference materials on the Internet to help us.

    I’ve added Maigret to my wishlist. I hope I can find a copy of one of his books soon.

    1. I hope so too Deb. His books are perfect weekend/holiday/mid-winter blues reading & I'm now a convert.

  5. I had no idea there are that many books with Maigret! And, your post is so interesting with the photographs of the true places, and descriptions of the food. (Ew!) Clearly, I have much to discover when it comes to Simenon's work.

    1. I do like how a reading challenge, like this one, makes me focus on certain things that I might just normally 'read over'. Another Aussie blogger wrote a lovely piece about his experience in Paris walking the same streets as Maigret Bill @The Australian Legend
      I hope to do the same as Bill one day :-)

  6. I might be posting on Maigret too -- I've become hooked. I've not read this one but I have read about four or five of them and want to run the gauntlet (I'm not reading in order, either). I love how you did this with the google and wonderful descriptions and all. Maybe I won't do Maigret -- I don't think anything I could write could hold up to this -- you set a high bar!

    1. Well thank you Jeanie, but now that I've fallen in love with Maigret, I want more! So I look forward to seeing what your thoughts are on him too and seeing which ones you've read so far.
      I've linked to Bill's blog in the comments above - he actually got to go to Paris and walk in Maigret's footsteps!

  7. I'm adding this author to my list and hope to read one of his books!

    1. I'm hoping to squeeze in one more this month as I enjoyed this one so much :-)


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