Maigret: Maigret’s Madwoman

For a series that went on for so long, I’m actually a little surprised that Simenon didn’t attempt to tie the different stories together more with recurring characters aside from Maigret, his wife, his regular stable of lieutenants (Janvier, Lucas, Lapointe, Torrence), and the sad sack Lognon. There’s little mention made in any of the individual novels to things that happened years, or decades, earlier – things that regular readers might be expected to remember.

Maigret’s Madwoman bucks this just a bit. For starters, the plot borrows heavily from Cécile is Dead, with the “madwoman” (she’s elderly but perfectly sane) coming to visit Maigret at the Quai des Orfèvres because she’s sure someone has been rummaging through her apartment. She then winds up dead, like the similarly concerned Cécile. Along the way there are more direct nods to other books in the series than this, but they come with slight changes, as though Simenon was testing his committed readers. When Maigret asks his wife if she ever talks to the people she meets while sitting in the park she can only “think of one time. A mother of a little girl, who asked me to look after the child for a few minutes while she went to buy something on the other side of the gardens.” I take it this is a reference to the events of Madame Maigret’s Friend, but in that book it was a little boy who Madame Maigret was asked to watch. And later Maigret will travel to Toulon where he meets up with Chief Inspector Marella, who reminds him of the “Porquerolles affair” of ten or twelve years earlier. What he means, I think, is the case described in My Friend Maigret, only the investigator who is Maigret’s liaison in that book is named Lechat.

I enjoyed these fillips for fans, and thought Maigret’s Madwoman a good read. It isn’t much of a mystery though, with the most likely suspect – a kid with long hair who plays in a rock band called Les Mauvais Garçons at the Bongo Club – only being outdone by an even more disreputable type who’s dropped in out of nowhere. The MacGuffin is a stretch, and I had trouble believing the bad guys thought they were going to be able to make anything out of the item they stole from the apartment, but greedy dreamers are like that. And in the end this is another case where Maigret just has to sadly walk away. Not so much out of sympathy for the killer’s accomplice, though some of that’s implied, but because he figures there’s no point in going after them.

Maigret index


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