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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Maigret and the Ghost

Georges Simenon

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To purchase Maigret and the Ghost

Title: Maigret and the Ghost
Author: Georges Simenon
Genre: Novel
Written: 1964 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 150 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Maigret and the Ghost - US
Maigret and the Ghost - UK
Maigret and the Ghost - Canada
Maigret et le fantôme - Canada
Maigret et le fantôme - France
Maigret und das Gespenst - Deutschland
Maigret e il fantasma - Italia
Maigret y el fantasma - España
  • French title: Maigret et le fantôme
  • Translated by Ros Schwartz
  • Previously translated by Eileen Ellenbogen, published in the UK as Maigret and the Apparition (1976)

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Our Assessment:

B : even busier and quicker than most of the Maigrets, but good color and characters

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev.* . 21/11/1976 Julian Symons
Sunday Times* . 8/8/1976 Edmund Crispin

(*: review of earlier translation)
  From the Reviews:
  • "Maigret investigates and uncovers an absorbingly interesting but outstandingly unlikely plot about art frauds." - Julian Symons, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Same old stuff, mostly (.....) Plot a bit better than usual, though, and not quite so many (though still plenty of) strings of dots substituting for a word he hasn't been able to bother to think of." - Edmund Crispin, Sunday Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Maigret and the Ghost begins with the end of a long day for Detective Chief Inspector Maigret of the Police Judiciaire; it's only one in the morning when he can finally head home, after wrapping up another case. He tells his wife to wake him at eight the next morning, but she rouses him at seven, after a colleague of his arrived bearing bad news: "Something happened last night, to someone you're fond of ...". An Inspector Lognon -- not from headquarters, at Quai des Orfèvres, but "a civvy", a plainclothes inspector stationed in Montmartre town hall -- was shot, and it doesn't look good for him.
       To Maigret Lognon is: "Inspector Luckless". Ambitious, he hadn't managed to advance his career as he would have liked; time after time: "the big case would fizzle out, or someone else would take the credit for it". Maigret learns that for a while now the married Lognon had been visiting a young woman who lived on the fourth floor of the building in front of which he was killed, staying until late into the night Was he simply having an affair -- or was he onto something criminal ? And how is Maigret to interpret the one word that the concierge heard him utter when she went outside to the shot man -- "Ghost ..." ?
       The young woman Lognon was visiting isn't of any immediate help -- she seems to have made herself scarce. But from the questioning of neighbors and locals Maigret begins to get an inkling that Lognon was using her apartment as a stake-out. And the obvious place he was watching would be the fancy house across the street, owned by a wealthy Dutchman, Norris Jonker, who is married to a beautiful young woman -- and whose house was nevertheless also frequently visited by other women who were clearly professionals.
       Maigret goes Jonker's impressive residence to speak with him. Jonker is an art-collector, and he has many fine pieces on the walls, by recognizable names, and he certainly lives a life of quiet but considerable comfort. And he has that very attractive wife -- who apparently dabbles a bit at painting herself, if not very convincingly ..... If the foreigner Jonker is a representative of a world that Maigret isn't entirely comfortable with, he immediately sees through the wife -- or at least recognizes her roots and background; despite his high position, Maigret was: "still of the people", and has a much better feel for them. She may have taken to her new role as "a woman of the world", but Maigret recognizes that: "Something's not quite right, I don't know what but the way she looked at me confirmed it ...".
       From the first interview, Maigret and the Ghost shapes up as a sort of chess game between Maigret and Jonker -- with Maigret uncertain just what Jonker is covering up. Along the way, he makes inquiries left and right -- including calls to Nice and London -- in a flurry of activity; he does, however, manage to take the time to enjoy a nice leisurely restaurant lunch with his wife along the way -- Madame Maigret here also assigned to see after (and talk to) Lognon's wife, and proving helpful in the case (and quite pleased with herself for managing to be of help, so that the very much out of the ordinary routine: "lunch at Chez Manière would be one of her most treasured memories").
       Among those Maigret contacts is old acquaintance Chief Inspector Pyke of Scotland Yard, who had visited France to study Maigret's methods years earlier: "and had been surprised to discover that Maigret had no method at all". The case at hand would seem to confirm that -- or show that there is, in fact, method to his seeming madness. Busy and quick -- and gaining urgency as the case proceeds (all in such a short period of time), as Maigret fears the fact that there's more to it means that others are in danger -- Maigret and the Ghost jumps to and fro at quite a pace before the pieces finally fall neatly into place. Maigret works in an inimitable way -- indeed, others can barely follow the workings of his mind as he probes and feints, and dispatches policemen left and right -- but he proves himself the master, in figuring it all out.
       Not least among his talents is that, as he tells Jonker when the art-devotee insists:

     "You'll find it hard to believe me because you're not a collector ..."
     "I collect people ..."
       Simenon is, as always, good on the interactions; Maigret and the Ghost is full of back and forths -- interrogations ranging from what appears to be simply conversation to sharply leading probing. Maigret elicits what he needs, and knows how to put the information he gleans together. It's a quite preposterous case, ultimately, but it hardly matters -- Simenon's investigation is what is of interest.
       Maigret and the Ghost is unusual too in giving Madame Maigret a more prominent role (though it's still pretty small, given the overall busy-ness of the short novel), even to the extent of involving her in some of the investigation, and it's nice to see the domestic and professional sides of Maigret come together here. Their relationship isn't really dug into, but Simenon does offer the nice summing up:
     He didn't call her by her first name, nor she him. They didn't call one another 'darling'. What would be the point, since they felt almost like one and the same person ?
       A brief summing-up postscript of sorts closes things off, revealing the fates of several of those involved and the outcome of the trials -- a fitting ending-contrast to the rush of everything that came before, the novel nicely closing:
     The cae was already history, because now it was June and all people could talk about were the holidays.
       Maigret and the Ghost is a fine Maigret, though perhaps even more breathless than usual. Jonker and his art, and the mix of milieus -- and incidental characters such as Lognon's insufferable wife -- make for a good entertainment, and overall it's a satisfying little work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 May 2020

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Maigret and the Ghost: Reviews (*: review of the earlier translation): Georges Simenon: Other books by Georges Simenon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Belgian author Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote hundreds of books, and is especially famous for his detective-fiction.

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