These are all short mystery novels by Georges Simenon with the character Maigret solving a crime, usually in some non-local capacity. Maigret is part of the “flying squad” which means that he travels around the country as a travelling detective and solving crimes that are too big for local police.
In this novel, the sixth in the series, Maigret is called in where a local wine dealer is shot on his way home and it’s unclear who and how many people might have been implicated in the crime. This one is tough to deal with because like with many of Maigret mysteries, he’s an outsider, and there’s a local unground at work that protects its own and protects the world itself. Maigret is also called in by the mayor of the town and another motif in Maigret novels is where a local official immediately resents Maigret’s presence, and even against his own interest tries to thwart things.
What’s most interesting to me about this one is that there are several other novels called “Yellow dog” or that use “yellow dog” as part of their naming. I wonder how related they are to this one. Walter Mosley’s I plan to read soon, so I will report back on this very essential detail.
“There was an exaggerated humility about her. Her cowed eyes, her way of gliding noiselessly about without bumping into things, of quivering nervously at the slightest word, were the very image of a scullery maid accustomed to hardship. And yet he sensed, beneath that image, glints of pride held firmly in check. She was anaemic. Her flat chest was not formed to rouse desire. Nevertheless, she was strangely appealing, perhaps because she seemed troubled, despondent, sickly.”
As with other Maigret novels this one really deals with a demimonde environment. While this sometimes involves organized crime it doesn’t always, and sometimes it’s just the world of drunks and sex workers and other “low lifes”. It’s the world of “Down and Out in London and Paris” without the sympathetic outsider weighing in and providing context. Maigret is neither sympathetic nor antipathetic, but more neutral. He doesn’t especially judge, but he also doesn’t feel to terribly bad for anyone.
“Half an hour later, he was in Cannes . . . White everywhere! Huge white hotels, white shops, white trousers and dresses, white sails out at sea. It was as if life were no more than a pantomime fairy-tale, a white and blue fairy-tale.”
““Was it he who had shacked up with the two Martini women, the mother with the plastered face and the daughter with the callipygian figure? … Was it he who had immersed himself blissfully in the crapulous laziness of the Liberty Bar? …””
A poison case! Maigret heads down to a small town on the coast when two random seeming crimes point toward similar origins.
One of the weirder or more interesting elements of the Maigret novels is that a bunch of them were published all at once in the first few years. Ultimately Simenon wrote about 75 of these books and there’s a sense that maybe he didn’t know going in that there would be that many or that he would “retire” the character a few times. This is one of the early post-retirement novels that came out. Maigret comes out of retirement to help his nephew, another police inspector, who has been pulled into the world of organized crime.
“Maigret shrugged his shoulders, buried his hands in his pockets and went off without answering. He had just spent one of the most wretched days in his life. For hours, in his corner he had felt old and feeble, without idea or incentive. But now a tiny flame flickered. ‘You bet we’ll see’ he growled.”