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by Georges Simenon
Penguin, July 2006
160 pages
ISBN: 0143037277

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

To celebrate Inspector Jules Maigret's 75th anniversary, Penguin Press is re-releasing several of the early Maigret mysteries. LOCK 14 is one of these mysteries.

Inspector Maigret is called in to investigate the murder of a woman found near a canal lock. The victim, Mary Lampson, is well dressed and appears well off, but she has straw in her hair and other signs that point to time spent in the stable. The stable is near an inn where canal drivers and passengers frequently stop and eat. No one remembers seeing the woman and there is no evidence of a car or other transportation.

Later in the day, the yacht she was traveling on and her husband appear. The victim led a decadent and drunken life as the wife of a well-to-do English gentleman. The fact that Mary was traveling with both her husband and her husband's mistress is telling.

The widower's behavior is also telling, as he is not interested in assisting Maigret's investigation; he wants to have the funeral so he can continue his trip as quickly as possible. Maigret believes that the situation is not as it appears. The victim must have had a secret that was worth killing for. Maigret has to discover the victim's secret past in order to find her killer.

Inspector Maigret is not as strongly developed in this book as he is in later books. LOCK 14 is one of the earliest books in the series, so Georges Simenon is still in the process of developing and defining his main protagonist. The only memorable character traits are Maigret's love of his pipe and his overwhelming patience and meticulous investigating style. While these traits are the core of Maigret's persona, he gains more depth and personality as the series continues.

LOCK 14 deals with several topics that Simenon normally does not address. The bulk of the Maigret mysteries occur in town, with lots of suspects and witnesses. LOCK 14 occurs in an isolated canal inn where there are few suspects and no witnesses. As there are few suspects, Maigret does not need to do much detecting once his background check is complete. In fact, the French title of this book names the murderer, which makes this story less of a mystery and more an exploration of motives.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, August 2006

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