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by Georges Simenon
Penguin, June 2007
186 pages
ISBN: 0143038931

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Madame Maigret has been going to the dentist for a few weeks and she has made it a habit to sit in the little park opposite his office before the appointment so as to get herself together for the ordeal. While in the park she has made the acquaintance of a woman (always in a very stylish, lovely hat) who goes there with her little boy.

One day the woman is distressed and asks Madame Maigret to look after her child and she says she'll be back to fetch him in a short while. Unfortunately for Madame Maigret the woman returns hours late, worrying the good woman and making her miss her dentist's appointment and even worse, making her miss saving the chief inspector's food from burning and she doesn't get to serve him his midday meal.

The chief inspector forgives Madame her foolishness. He has his hands full on another matter. The media has picked up on a report that deals with a body being burned in a local shop's furnace. The problem is that though there is evidence that a body was incinerated the police found teeth there is no report of a missing person and no corpse to work with. On top of that, though the owner of the shop, a bookbinder named Steuvels, has been arrested, he doesn't admit to being the perpetrator of any crime and quietly sits in police custody.

Maigret tries to collect information from Madame Steuvels, the bookbinder's wife. She had been a lady of the streets before Steuvels took her in and his kindness has made the rather somber woman grateful. She is now unwilling to say or do anything that might harm her husband. Even with Maigret visiting her at all hours and talking to her, even giving her advice when it's needed, he can't get her to share any details about her husband's activities.

As is the usual in Georges Simenon's Maigret series, the readers get to see the investigation through the eyes of the chief inspector as he does what he does best, interviewing and getting insight from the people involved. Maigret and his musings about human relations, thoughts on his beloved city and many comments on his own creature comforts lets the readers in on the world of Paris in the 1930s.

Also, as is usual in this well written and well thought out series, Maigret manages to juggle many different characters and their different stories, and in the end, all the information is used to get to the truth of the case.

THE FRIEND OF MADAME MAIGRET is only 186 pages long, but it is packed with many interesting characters and a great many twists and clues. Simenon takes great care in creating a fine mystery that makes the reader work hard to try to figure it out. It's well written and lets the reader in on a different time and place. Not much more can be hoped for in a first-rate mystery story.

Reviewed by A. L. Katz, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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