Pietr the Latvian

I’ve decided to take a small break from The Queen of Crime’s novels and turn to Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series. I haven’t read novels by Simenon before, but I gather that he was a prolific writer – his Inspector Maigret series alone has 75 novels and 28 short stories.

Pietr the Latvian written in 1931 is Simenon’s first novel featuring Maigret, a French police detective.

Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn’t have a mustache and he didn’t wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands.

But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man. Iron muscles shaped his jacket sleeves and quickly wore through new trousers.

He had a way imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had often irked many of his own colleagues.

As you can see, his appearance is very different from Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Not only that, even his crime-solving methods include a lot of legwork and stakeouts.

In Pietr the Latvian, The International Criminal Police Commision (ICPC) is after a conman, and the novel begins with a coded message ICPC sents to Maigret warning him of the imminent arrival of Pietr in Paris by train. Maigret doesn’t even have a photograph of Pietr, he only has a ‘word-picture’ which he knows by heart, and that is how Maigret identifies Pietr getting off the train at the Gare du Nord, and heading to Hotel Majestic. However, Maigret’s investigation gets complicated when a corpse is found inside the train of a man who looks exactly like Pietr, and what follows is an engrossing police procedural where Maigret tries to shed light on the true identity of the Pietr the Latvian.

There’s no mind-blowing reveal at the end of the novel, but I enjoyed reading how Maigret patiently waited to see the human being behind the criminal. Maigret turned out to be a sympathetic investigator, who reminded me a bit of Peter Burke from White Collar, so I think I’ll be spending more time with the Maigret series in future. ūüôā