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by Georges Simenon
Penguin, July 2006
176 pages
ISBN: 0143037285

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Acting uncharacteristically, Inspector Maigret arranges for a man waiting on the French equivalent of death row to escape from jail. Joseph Heurtin has a slightly subnormal intelligence level but was still convicted of killing Mme Henderson, a rich American woman, and her maid. While Maigret did arrest Heurtin for this crime, he does not believe Heurtin is a killer. For this reason he convinces his superiors to allow Heurtin to escape.

Heurtin's actions, once he is free, will indicate whether he was innocent or guilty; whether he has an accomplice or whether he worked alone. It is also possible that his actions will reveal a motive for the murder. This lack of motive is one of the reasons Maigret is not sure Heurtin is the killer.

As Maigret's men tail Heurtin, Maigret finds himself questioning Mr Kirby, the victim's heir. Maigret finds that he has new questions regarding the murder and the suspects' interactions. In order to prove Heurtin's innocence, Maigret must begin a new investigation focusing on different suspects and motives.

A MAN'S HEAD is both typical and atypical of the series. This book is atypical in that Maigret operates on the fringe of the law. By allowing Heurtin to escape and remain at large, he is putting the population at risk if Heurtin is a murderer. In addition, Maigret ignores his superiors' instructions when they interfere with his illegal plan. Normally Maigret follows the law, or at least stays within the legal boundaries, when pursuing and interviewing a suspect or criminal.

A MAN'S HEAD is typical of the series in that Maigret allows a suspect to prove himself by his actions. Maigret's instincts say Heurtin might be innocent regardless of the evidence found. Maigret allows Heurtin to escape so that he can prove himself to be either guilty or innocent. Heurtin's actions will be revealing. Throughout the Maigret mysteries, Maigret always allows his suspects to prove themselves by their actions. He strongly believes that people betray themselves through their actions. This belief is Maigret's guide when dealing with suspects, witnesses and criminals.

Penguin Press, in honor of Inspector Maigret's creation 75 years ago, has re-released several of George Simenon's mysteries. A MAN'S HEAD was originally published in 1931 and has been re-released several times between then and now.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, August 2006

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