Night at the Crossroads, Georges Simenon 1931
This is the seventh Maigret novel published by Simenon in 1931, the year he launched what would become a 72 book series about his famous Paris Chief Inspector. Once again, Maigret is called from Paris to solve the murder of a Belgian jewel dealer in a small town south of Paris. A body is found in a car at a crossroads on the main road from Orleans to Paris, a crossroads in the country where only three houses stand. Each house has potential suspects and over the course of a few days, another murder occurs, Maigret fires his revolver several times and engages in fisticuffs with several suspects, and ultimately sorts out the various culprits. This was perhaps my least favorite Maigret. It does feature his usual plodding, patient style where he is more interested in the psychology, history, and personalities of those involved than in fingerprints or clever clues. But this book failed the test of creating interesting characters, and at the end of the story, the pieces fell into too neat a pattern to be satisfying. I’m looking forward to following Maigret and Simenon as they move beyond this first year and into the more complex, subtle, Paris-based books, though I’m left with the nagging question of why did this very prolific author introduce us to Maigret with ten books in the first year of its existence?