Georges Simenon - Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
"...a simple tale, told superbly and with an underlying meaning. "
A body is discovered in the Bois de Boulogne, and Maigret's old friend Inspector Fumel of the 16th arrondissement asks him to attend. To Maigret's regret, the body is that of Honoré Cuendet, a quiet, unassuming burglar known to Maigret, and for whom he has a certain respect. Cuendet's modus operandi was to keep watch on his next burglary target, either from a rented room on the other side of the street, or from a cafê, and then entering the premises quietly and efficiently.
However, Maigret is working on a series of robberies in Paris by a ruthless gang led by a man called Fernand, and he is told by the public prosecutor not to get involved in Cuendet's murder. He becomes involved unofficially, as he is not convinced that it is a gangland killing, which is what the public prosecutor assumes. So he is investigating two contrasting cases - one involving a quiet, traditional burglar who never used violence, and a modern gang that routinely uses violence during their robberies. Then a traced phone call sets things in motion to capture the Fernand gang, and the Cuendet murder is eventually resolved, though Maigret is, frustratingly, not allowed to make an arrest.
Maigret is two years away from retirement when investigating these two cases, and he is frustrated by the new rules and regulations that have been introduced into police work. So again, we have a contrast - the old way of doing things as exemplified by Cuendet, and the modern use of violence as exemplified by the Fernand gang.
This is, like many Maigret novels, a simple tale, told superbly and with an underlying meaning. The detective dreads and looks forward to his retirement, as do many people in real life, and in this it rings true. It is eminently readable, and short enough to be read within a day.
Reviewed by: J.G.