The Grand Banks Cafe, Georges Simenon 1931
The ninth of the ten books published in 1931 by Simenon to introduce Jules Maigret, Chief Inspector of the Police Judiciare, to the world’s readers finds our hero dispatched, once again, to a seaside town where the captain of a fishing trawler has been found strangled and drowned. Not sure why Simenon felt the need to have Maigret travel all over coastal France and Holland solving crimes before he settles him down in Paris where he will spend the next 60+ novels, but here we are again. In this case, Maigret gets a letter from an old schoolmate asking him to travel to Fecamp to solve a murder which the schoolmate’s student, the wireless operator on the trawler, Ocean, has been jailed for. For some reason, Maigret does so, abandoning his plan for an Alsace vacation. Once in Fecamp he spends time at the Grand Banks Cafe with the crew of the Ocean, an angry, disturbed, and violent group. In his usual slow, plodding manner, Maigret recreates the situation the captain, the wireless operator, and the first mechanic faced while fishing off Newfoundland. The wireless operator is released, and Maigret solves the crime, but nobody is charged or punished. This may be the first instance of Simenon describing in detail Maigret’s method of solving the mind set of the characters rather than the crime directly. A good read but Simenon is still searching for his voice in this series.