Maigret: Maigret and the Old Lady

Is Maigret an alcoholic? He does wonder at one point here if he’s drinking too much, though at least he’s not an angry drunk. He just gets sleepy.

So not an alcoholic, but someone who drinks a lot. Most of this is professionally related. “The upstanding citizens who protest against the number of bars are unaware that they are a godsend for the police.” A poisoned chalice, I’d call it, since given the number of glasses of beer, wine, liquors, and liqueurs that Maigret pounds back in these books, usually while he’s working, his liver must be thoroughly pickled.

His favourite beverage is something called a Calvados. I had to look this up, and found that it’s a cider brandy native to Normandy. It’s also the regimental drink of the military unit I was a member of in the reserves. This was news to me. Apparently the Canadians landing on the beaches on D-Day were handed out Calvados by the locals.

As Maigret heads to Normandy for this adventure it’s no surprise he gets a chance to knock back a few Calvados. Though he also smashes a bottle for effect at the end, an action he almost immediately regrets.

The set-up is familiar. There’s been a murder in a small town that looks like a picture postcard. Maigret admits he has “a childish hankering” for such places, even while being aware of “the other side of the coin.” The pretty houses are just like the nice clothes and good manners of the rich family he’s investigating, where all the members are living secret lives. Meanwhile, poor people end up being more collateral damage.

Overall I’d rate this as one of the best pure mysteries thus far. It’s a poisoning this time, and poisonings are fun because they’re a more thoughtful sort of crime. The killer has a plan that has to be unraveled, as it is here in a satisfying way. Minus what happens to that bottle of Calvados.

Maigret index

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