Maigret: Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook

There’s no “Maigret” in the title of this story/novella, because Maigret doesn’t appear in it. But it’s part of the A Maigret Christmas volume and takes place in the same universe since Janvier puts in an appearance, so I figured I should cover it.

In fact, the absence of Maigret is one of the less surprising aspects of the story. It’s entirely set in the police switchboard control room on Christmas day, with the staff on duty responding to calls coming in from all around Paris. Then a murdered body is found and one of the operators recognizes the name of the victim. It seems his brother may be involved.

It’s a clever idea to limit the action to the one room, with witnesses and reports being fed into that room bit by bit. You could imagine the thing being done on stage, or Hitchcock taking up the challenge of making something out of it on film. I’m not sure it works quite as well on the page, and the first chapter is a bit confusing, but it’s certainly a change-up for the series and I think it’s nicely done.

It’s a neat story too, with a sort of double-manhunt plot that has the brother’s son intent on catching a serial killer while Janvier and the rest of the police try to find them. Also interesting is the man who’s been laid off trying to keep up appearances by still going out to work every night with his lunch pail. He’s someone we’d meet again in the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down and the John Lanchester novel Mr. Phillips. Was this the first appearance of such a character? It may well have been, as Un Noël de Maigret was first published in 1951 and I don’t think we really understood the condition yet.

Maigret index

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