Maigret and the Tavern by the Seine, Georges Simenon 1941
Maigret is finally near Paris, though not in the city quite yet in this, his eleventh Maigret novel and the first one published after the initial rush in 1937. The Chief Inspector makes a final visit to a condemned man in Sante and is given information about a murder that occurred six years earlier. The condemned man, however, provides only the name of a cafe where the murderer had been spotted recently and neither Simenon nor any of his colleagues have ever heard of it. During a visit to a hattery where he is replacing his bowler hat, Maigret overhears another patron mention the name of the cafe in question and that starts Maigret off on a random chase, first following the man to a tryst and then home and finally to a small inn on the Seine across the river from the sought cafe, the Guinguette a Deux Sous. Maigret driven by some strange fixation spends the whole weekend and the next at the inn and cafe until a further series of strange coincidences enables him to discover the victim and the murderer from several years earlier.
As usual, in the course of the book Simenon gives us a brief insight into Maigret and his methods as follows: “(Maigret) had handled hundreds of cases in the course of his career, and he knew very well that the great majority of them could be divided into two distinct phases. The first consisted in the detective’s making contact with a new atmosphere, with people of whose existence he had been unaware a few hours before, people who made a little world of their own, and whose little world had been suddenly shaken by the irruption of some drama. Enter the detective, a stranger if not an enemy, encountering hostile or suspicious glances on every hand. Sullen faces, cunning faces. Or, on the other hand, the distraught faces of those who are racked by suffering or terror and have cast away the last shreds of reticence and self-respect. This of course was the fascinating phase…The groping, probing phase, often without any real point of departure. A dozen different ways look equally hopeful—-or hopeless. A dozen different people, and any one of them may be guilty, or at any rate an accomplice. Nothing to be done about it. Only to wait, to turn around and round, keeping one’s nose to the ground. And then suddenly a scent is picked up. something real, something definite. And with that the second phase begins. The clutch is slipped in, the machinery starts turning, and the investigation proper, relentless and methodical, begins. Each step brings fresh facts to light. the detective is no longer alone with his problem. Others are there, too, hosts of others and time is now on his side. Even when there is no longer any doubt, the machinery goes on turning just the same, till everything is proved up to the hilt. Only occasionally the vagueness and mystery of the first phase would last right up to the solution of the mystery. But those were the rare and marvelous exceptions. Those were the real Maigret “cases”. “
What a perfect summary of the Maigret cases and the 72+ novels and dozens of short stories about Jules Maigret that have fascinated readers for almost 100 years! Read him and enjoy.