July 2018

Georges Simenon - Maigret Travels

"...the ending to this book is immaculate. "

A waiter is summoned to Room 332 at the Hôtel George-V at 3 am, and discovers Countess Palmieri, the 'Little Countess', in distress. She has taken an overdose, and is now saying she doesn't want to die. She is taken to hospital, and the police are informed. When Lucas reports for duty in the morning, he sees a report about the attempted suicide, and decides that he need not bother Maigret about it.

However, at 10 am, the body of billionaire David Ward is discovered in the bath in his room in the hotel. He has obviously been murdered. Maigret takes command, and discovers that Ward and the Countess had been having a 'relationship'. So had the Countess murdered him? If she didn't do it, then who did? Before Maigret's investigations can get fully under way, the Countess quits the hospital. Maigret follows her, and this takes him to the Riviera and Switzerland. He uncovers more suspects.

Could the murderer have been Countess Palmieri's first husband, Count Marco Palmieri? Or could it be John T. Arnold, Ward's business associate and friend? Or perhaps Van Meulen, another rich businessman? Maigret soon identifies the murderer, but does he have enough evidence? What he needs is a confession, and he hatches a cunning plan to extract one from the perpetrator....

In this book, Maigret finds himself in unfamiliar territory - the territory of the fabulously wealthy, and we read his thoughts as he moves through it. He isn't impressed, though he has to keep his opinions to himself and act professionally.

Simenon's plots always seem simple, when in fact they throw up so many questions that have to be answered. As usual, his characterisation is impeccable, and his mastery of life behind the scenes of a smart hotel ring true. So too does his neat dissection of the characters who inhabit this world of fabulous wealth and privilege.

And the ending to this book is immaculate. The cunning plan is unexpected, daring, and yet believable. It is a fitting ending to another Simenon tour de force.

Reviewed by: J.G.

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