The Maigret novels aren’t without their moments of humour, but I wouldn’t call any that I’ve read thus far comic. Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters comes the closest, beginning with the sad sack Lognon himself, who I don’t recall appearing before Maigret at Picratt’s. Lognon goes by the nickname Inspector Hard-Done-By and is described as “the most lugubrious individual in the entire Parisian police force, a man whose bad luck was so proverbial some people claimed he was cursed.” Very much a comic figure then, and the book begins with his going missing and Maigret having to make a visit to his wife, a scene which plays out as farce.
There is, however, a dangerous subtext. Another potentially comic character Maigret meets is the café owner Pozzo (this book was published in 1952 and Waiting for Godot premiered in 1953, so Simenon wasn’t writing under the influence). Pozzo initially seems to be acting the clown and even later will look like “one of those old comic actors whose faces have become rubbery from all their contortions.” But beneath that rubbery face, and despite his costume of baggy pants and red slippers, he is a figure of threat, with eyes that remain hard and watchful. The same might be said of some of the gangsters, Americans who come with snappy names like Sweet Bill and Sloppy Joe. And the final gunfight, which is underscored by funny moments like Maigret having a pullet pass through his hat and a tiny French policeman trying to physically constrain a giant American woman.
So maybe this is a comic novel. I don’t even think anyone gets killed, though quite a few are shot and beaten up (including poor Lognon, who is removed from “his” case pretty quickly). The plot involves a bunch of gangsters arriving in Paris and behaving as very poor guests. Maigret takes their presence as a challenge – we know he loves a challenge – and makes their capture a point of national pride. I don’t have to tell you how that works out. He shows them all . . . Absolutely!