Sunday, March 15, 2015

Maigret's War Of NervesMaigret's War Of Nerves by Georges Simenon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Yet another coincidence. After finishing Agatha Christie's 1931 novel "Murder at Hazelmoor", I picked up the next "light reading item" on my shelf, and it happened to be Georges Simenon's "Maigret's War of Nerves" (French title is "La Tête d'un homme"), written in the same year. In both the Christie's and Simenon's novels the plots take place in about 1930 and I find it interesting that Christie's past seems to be much more dated than Simenon's. It feels almost like my grandmother's world versus my own. It cannot be just because Dame Agatha was 13 years older than the Belgian author. I would rather think that the rigid class structure of the particular segment of British society portrayed in "Murder" resembles a typical Victorian setting, whereas Simenon's story happens mainly in Parisian cafes, where one is as likely to meet American businessmen as destitute people, which I believe is still the case today.

A death-row prisoner, convicted for murdering a rich American woman and her maid, escapes from the Santé Prison in Paris, apparently with Maigret's and other officials' consent. Maigret's people follow the escapee, yet when he soon manages to shake the tail, the good Inspector is not too concerned. He meets a mysterious Czech émigré, Radek, who implies he knows more about the events. Maigret seems to be waiting for something to happen - he is waging his "war of nerves".

I find Mr. Simenon's writing much stronger than Ms. Christie's, even with his frequent use of hysterical prose (e.g., "Once more those eyes were glittering with the keenest intelligence as they looked at him with superb derision. It was as though his whole being was in an ecstasy of triumph.") At least the main characters feel almost like real people, even if the characterizations are a little over the top.

Two and a quarter stars.

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