In the 1930s, Georges Simenon created over 100 noir mysteries that achieved great popularity throughout the 1960s, eventually reaching television and the film screen. Unfortunately, his novels have fallen out of the rage in the past few decades. Lately, though, a new generation of mystery lovers has rediscovered Simenonís novels. Penguin Books has reissued some of the Maigret
mysteries, giving many the opportunity to enjoy his works once again.
Set in Paris, France, The Hotel Majestic begins as most mysteries do: with the discovery of a dead body.
The young, beautiful Mrs. Clark, traveling with her well-to-do husband, son and governess, is found murdered and stuffed in the basement of the Hotel Majestic. Inspector Maigret is called to the case and begins his investigation quickly and methodically.
Simenon not only follows Maigret through his investigation of the crime at hand but also makes note of the obvious social differences between living upstairs and downstairs in the Majestic. Above, the guests eat, drink champagne, and dance all night. Downstairs, the hotel employees
bustle in chaos to prepare and clean after those above; every cent earned is barely enough for food and rent. Maigret
knows there must be a connection between Mrs. Clarke and a hotel employee; he just has to find out what that connection is before it is too late. He begins with countless interviews, narrowing potential suspects,
investigating leads, following hunches, and gathering information.
Simenon never gives away too much information too soon. He also illustrates how much like a real-life inspector Maigret is. Personally, I could see Humphrey Bogart playing Maigret in a film:
the black noir style, somewhat dark, serious, yet ready to crack a joke when least expected. He utilizes dialogue well throughout. Maigretís character is always at work,
his mind always analyzing his last conversation or processing information
obtained from a contact. Maigret hates to make mistakes. Simenon creates a silent intimidation about Maigret that readers can sense.
Throughout the novel, I became more intrigued by Maigretís intellect, aloofness, and need to solve the mystery. The balance is exciting and entertaining. Of course, the best part is the ending. The process of trying to solve the mystery
becomes not only Maigretís job, but the reader's as well, weighing information given versus
that left undisclosed and ferreting out when Maigret (and the reader) may have been mislead. Simenon's mysteries challenge readers.
His books give a sense of a real environment, rawness, and unpredictability -
one pleasantly absent factor is the conclusion that ďThe butler did it!Ē Simenon searched for more reality and complexity in his work. The actual size of
this mystery book is no larger than my palm, his words concise, and an extremely compelling read.