Maigret in Montmartre (Georges Simenon, 1954)

I finished reading MAIGRET IN MONTMARTRE yesterday, first published in 1954. It’s about Arlette, a young runaway making a living from a nudie show with a bit of hooking on the side, who goes to the police station to report that she’s overheard a plan to murder a Countess. Arlette works in a club where all the girls are forced to sleep with the owner – a former pimp  — whose wife doesn’t mind because she’s twenty years older than he is and anxious to hold onto him. Arlette, sexually abused as a child in a convent, was forced to leave home when she became pregnant as a teenager. The Countess turns out to be a former showgirl who married an Austrian Count thirty years older than her, now with most of her money gone and living off her jewellry which is going fast because she’s become a morphine addict. Her doctor is her supplier; her best friend a gay man who is also an addict. All of this and more is presented in a very matter of fact way with understanding if not sympathy afforded to everyone but the gay addict. Arlette and the Countess get murdered. Maigret finds out why, what the connection is between the murders, and who did it. Montmartre and Place Pigalle come alive in all their seedy glory, depicted economically, but evoking great texture and detail. I can’t think of another writer of detective fiction who would have included that range of human experience, expressed so frankly and in such a matter-of-fact manner, in that period. If you can think of examples do let me know.


José Arroyo

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