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Simenon, Georges

maigret novels pipe crime

(Belgian, 1903–89)

Born in Liège, Simenon lived in Paris from 1923 to 1939, working initially as a journalist before becoming a prodigious writer of crime fiction. Far more than a pulp author, he invested the genre with psychological, even existential depths, conveyed in his trademark unemotional prose. Simenon's great fictional detective is Maigret, hero of seventy-six short novels written between 1931 and 1972. The first is The Death of Monsieur Gallet (1931). Maigret is a patient observer of the ordinary lives of criminals and their victims; he typically plays cat-and-mouse with suspects. Maigret's Pipe (1947) is a characteristic collection of stories in which details are more important than plot twists; the title story is resolved by a young boy's theft of Maigret's favourite pipe, while ‘Storm in the Channel’ finds the inspector assisting provincial police while on holiday. Simenon's numerous other crime novels have a much darker edge, often with erotic undercurrents, as with In Case of Emergency (1956): a successful lawyer becomes obsessed with a young prostitute who is then found murdered.

Ruth Rendell, H. R. F. Keating.


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