Maigret and the Minister is a bit of a change-up, being more of a political novel than the other books in the series. Maigret doesn’t care much for politics, or politicians, so when he gets called in by a government minister to investigate the theft of a politically explosive document he doesn’t relish the assignment one bit. He’d rather be dealing with the usual criminal types, feeling at one point “almost fond of the petty thieves maniacs, swindlers, and offenders of all kinds that he usually had to deal with.”
Making matters worse is the role of a press baron in all of this. Because if there’s one group of people that, then as now, people tend to like even less than politicians it’s the media. Who will win this race to the bottom?
Fitting the broader, more public scope of the proceedings there’s also a larger cast, with lots of incidental characters. This is compounded by what Maigret sees as the almost comic competition between Maigret’s team – the Police Judiciaire, headquartered at Quai des Orfèvres – and the Sûreté on Rue des Saussaies. I’m afraid I’m not clear on the distinction between these two organizations. I think Maigret is in a division of the Paris police and the other investigators are federal, but that might be the wrong way around.
Once everything gets unwrapped, however, things settle down into the usual round of Maigret and his deputies wearing out some shoe leather following people about and interviewing suspects until the solution just sort of comes to the Chief Inspector. It’s one of those things where he only needs to be reminded of something that’s been sitting at the back of his mind all along.
Also as usual, the chief villain will have to wait to get their full comeuppance. As for Maigret, he’s happy to wash the stink of politics off his hands and get back to his liars, murderers, and thieves.