Acclaimed author Georges Simenon once again weaves a capturing tale of mystery and suspense, with the astute Inspector Maigret at the wheel. Numbering over 100 books, the Inspector Maigret series – after a long stint of unavailability – has, thankfully, been reintroduced by Penguin Books to readers hankering for good mysteries. With an intriguing plot and a cast of believable characters, Lock 14, set early on in the Maigret series, is a swift but gratifying read.
Brusquer and less loquacious than Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, Inspector Maigret is all business as he takes on a new case that is sure to perplex even the most skilled of sleuths.
Set in France, in the region of a lock located on a busy section of canal, Lock 14 portrays the underhanded goings-on along these extensive waterways. With commercial barge interchange in the lock coupled with high-class yachts and tourist boats, which are often gathered in close proximity, the result is an aquatic melding pot of working class and upper-crust societies.
The varying degrees of society in the vicinity of Lock 14 have apparently collided on a rainy April day. Two dockmen stumble upon the cadaver of elegantly-clad Mary Lampson while rummaging under the hay in a stable, five hours dead from apparent strangulation. Inspector Maigret is called to piece things together. First to be interviewed is the dead woman’s husband, Sir Walter Lampson, an Englishman and retired colonel of the Indian Army, whose pleasure craft is docked near Lock 14. The Inspector’s sharp instincts are alerted when Lampson, along with fellow passengers of his yacht - who seem only bent on a life devoted to decadence - appear oddly aloof and indifferent to the murder. Ultimately shedding light on a heartrending occurrence of lost identity and lost love, Maigret gradually pieces together the stories of those involved and how Mary Lampson and a second victim came to meet their untimely ends.
Regardless of the descriptive language outlining the characters, conspicuous is the lack of background on Inspector Maigret himself. Simenon leaves the reader guessing about the Inspector’s persona and the depths that lie beneath his somewhat gruff and abrupt exterior.
Despite their small size, Simenon's Inspector Maigret series of mystery books are highly satisfying and concentrated with page-flipping “who-dunnit” suspense, keeping readers captured until the final pages. Lock 14 saw its original publication in 1931 yet remains accessible and a pleasure to read. These are excellent books that are small and easy to pack for a weekend getaway or outing and can be easily enjoyed in a few brief sittings.