A wretch of a middle-aged man living in poverty in a slum in Paris absents himself for a week or two on a regular basis. He comes to the attention of the police who discover that whenever he returns from one of these trips that he invariably burns a small fortune in currency in his room. Trying to get to the bottom of this inexplicable behavior a police inspector shadows the man and sees him purchase a cheap suitcase. So guessing that the fellow is about to leave on another one of his mysterious journeys the inspector enters the store just after the man has left and buys an identical bag.
Following the subject on a train to Belgium the police inspector switches suitcases. The man now carrying the inspector’s bag walks to a poor part of the city and engages a hotel room in a rundown hotel. The inspector obtains the adjoining room and studies him through the keyhole whereupon the man opens the suitcase, sees the newspapers the inspector has stashed in there in there instead of his own property, pulls out a revolver and shoots himself dead before the policeman can intervene.
The inspector then opens the man’s suitcase and discovers that it contains only an old cheap suit of local manufacture that does not fit the man. Could have never fit the man.
Welcome to the world of Georges Joseph Christian Simenon (1903-1989) and his creation Inspector Jules Maigret. Simenon wrote hundreds of books, three to four a year, but for a lover of whodunits it’s his Maigret series which really matter – unbelievably inventive openings, writing shorn of any emotion, just Maigret’s dogged pursuit of the truth and a surprise ending which the inspector sometimes just lets unfold on its own. In other words: a lot of fun,
How did I never know about this guy until last month when my daughter gave me an anthology as a gift?
Well he was from Belgium and wrote in French but the translations are marvelous. As far as I know none of his books were adapted for the Hollywood screen and I don’t talk to other people who are into whodunits the way I am, I’m just into them, the way I am – it doesn’t bear any discussion.