Usually, I’m a stickler for reading books in order, but I think blogging has influenced the way I read. After learning that one doesn’t have to follow the books in the Inspector Maigret series in the chronological order they were written, I decided to go with the flow and read them on a whim!
The only book in the Inspector Maigret series I’ve previously read is Pietr the Latvian which is book #1 in the series. So during the time that had elapsed between Pietr the Latvian and Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (book #57) Jules Maigret, the brilliant, humble detective who works in the Police Judiciare in Paris, has grown considerably old and approaching retirement age.
This slender novel which treats us to two crimes begins when Maigret is woken up in the middle of a wintry night to “unofficially” investigate a murder. Unofficially because the French judicial system is going through a period of changes as the lawmakers from the Ministry of Interior have decided to transfer investigative powers of the police to the prosecutor’s office!
They were reorganizing, as they called it. In the silence of their offices, well-educated, well-brought-up young men from the best families in the country were examining all sides of the matter in a quest for greater efficiency. What emerged from their learned cogitations were hare-brained schemes that found expression every week in new rules.
These changes in rules have turned the police inspectors into a bunch of pencil pushers, with magistrates and prosecutors calling the shots. But Maigret knows whatever their qualifications are these prosecutors are no match to the old-school detectives like himself who rely on dogged legwork and their knowledge of the streets to solve crimes which is why Maigret decides to defy his orders.
Even though the deputy prosecutor in charge is quick to dismiss the murder as gang violence, Maigret realizes that this is not a mob-related killing the moment he sets his eyes on the seahorse tattoo of the victim who had suffered fatal head injuries. It’s that tattoo which Maigret had previously seen on Honoré Cuendet that helps him identify the body.
Cuendet is a lone career burglar Maigret had known for thirty years, “a man who had been almost a friend.” But why would our good detective be fond of a thief? It turns out Cuendet was not an ordinary burglar. Just like the old-guard detectives, Cuendet was a man who had a penchant for legwork. So he had observed his target houses for weeks, making note of everyone’s comings and goings to ensure all the residents would be at home on the day he carried out his robbery! As Cuendet never harmed any of the residents, Maigret had always believed Cuendet carried out these robberies to get a kick! In any case, we see how peculiar and even “innocent” Cuendet’s ways are as Maigret tracks down the perpetrators behind a string of armed robberies.
Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (although I wouldn’t characterize Cuendet as “lazy”) wraps up in a realistic way. It’s a fairly solid police procedural, although Maigret conducts Cuendet’s murder investigation from behind the curtains. Plus it reminded me what a sympathetic investigator Maigret is, so I think I’ll be picking up another Inspector Maigret novel soon.
Note: Many thanks to Penguin for sending me a review copy of Maigret and the Lazy Burglar.