Money and murder.
First Published: 1931
Date Reviewed: 8th July 2015
Original language: French
Original title: Monsieur Gallet, Décédé (Monsieur Gallet, Deceased)
Translated by: Anthea Bell
When Maigret is called upon to solve a murder case, he realises there’s more to it; something’s not quite ‘right’. There are suspects but there seems little reason for Monsieur Gallet to have been killed. The bullet and stab wounds seem slightly suspicious. And whilst there’s motive, no one person sticks out as the murderer.
The Late Monsieur Gallet is the third book in Simenon’s extensive Maigret series and whilst it’s the only one I’ve read I have to say I get the impression that various others are better.
Chances are it’s partly the translation that’s the issue. Missing commas, sentences that aren’t phrased very well. The text reads too simply.
The story is told very swiftly and much of it is facts. It can be contrived, at least in the context of our present day (more on that in a moment). People pop out of the scenery to provide titbits of information as Maigret walks past, to pop back just as quickly. Premises give way to suggestions of dinner just as you’re getting into the swing of things.
The text is outdated but easy to see why it worked at the time. It’s enjoyable if read in the context it was written in, and the work that went into the mystery is plain to see. That the story is told swiftly seems odd nowadays but one can appreciate the way Simenon doesn’t linger on sub-plots – there aren’t any. This is a crime novella and that’s how it stays; everything is focused on the mystery at hand. Maigret walks you through everything so you know exactly what happened and is happening.
And the psychology behind it all is fascinating. Simenon spends just as much time on the who as he does the why, looking into the social context. He lets his character flourish on the page, to be there in front of you even though the man’s been dead since the beginning. Solving the mystery may be key to the world at hand but looking at the deceased as a person is key to Maigret.
I get the sense that this book isn’t reflective of the rest of the series. The books can be read out of order but I would certainly recommend starting with a different one and leaving The Late Monsieur Gallet for later. It’s a perfectly fine way to pass an hour or two but is unlikely to make much in the way of a good early impression.
I received this book for review from the publisher.
July 8, 2015, 12:51 pm
I congratulate you on your review, Having read just one book in the series, your insights are remarkably accurate and predictive. I suggest you read at least several others, for my appreciation has grown and grown the more I’ve read. (I’m currently on #92 of 103.) Thanks.
July 19, 2015, 6:08 pm
I think the simplicity of the text may be part of his form, as I found The Blue Room similarly (although pleasingly) simplistic.
I think I’ll be taking your advice and beginning with the first in the series. I don’t like beginning mid-series (linked or not) with any series.
July 19, 2015, 8:53 pm
I didn’t mean to imply you should start at the beginning. (Although the first book does give a good portrait of the man you will be dealing with.) The series actually jumps forward and backwards chronologically. For example Maigret’s First Case is actually #57 in the series. In any case, if you’re utilizing the current Penguin English translations, I understand they are coming out in the original order of publication. Enjoy!
July 20, 2015, 2:19 pm
David: Thank you; I’m glad to hear on I’m the right track. I’ve been looking at the ones published so far and like the look of The Saint-Fiacre Affair and The Yellow Dog (the second’s a recommendation). Regarding the beginning, you make a good point: the detailing inevitable there is important to consider. Yes, I believe that is the case, order of publication. I’d be interested in reading #57 earlier than I ‘should’ to see what made Simenon write it later, the way Maigret’s history is included that far along and why.
Alice: I’ll keep that in mind. I do think it was more the translation for me – I got the sense I may not find I love Simenon’s work as far as favourite authors go, but that I’d enjoy it well enough in a different translation. Being mid-series is always difficult, I think. Often the books are written so that you can (The Babysitter’s Club is always first in my mind when I think of this because the repetition of the background is lengthy) but it’s hard not to feel weird about it, like you’re in the wrong, and missing something.