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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Maigret's Pickpocket

Georges Simenon

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To purchase Maigret's Pickpocket

Title: Maigret's Pickpocket
Author: Georges Simenon
Genre: Novel
Written: 1967 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 184 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Maigret's Pickpocket - US
Maigret's Pickpocket - UK
Maigret's Pickpocket - Canada
Le voleur de Maigret - Canada
Le voleur de Maigret - France
Maigret in Künstlerkreisen - Deutschland
Il ladro di Maigret - Italia
El ladrón de Maigret - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • French title: Le voleur de Maigret
  • Translated by Siân Reynolds
  • Previously translated by Nigel Ryan (1968)

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Our Assessment:

B : clever idea

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev.* . 18/8/1968 Allen J. Hubin
Sunday Times* . 21/7/1968 Raymond Mortimer

[* review of a different translation]

  From the Reviews:
  • "He worries the case like a dog with a favorite bone (.....) It's good, quietly entertaining Simenon." - Allen J. Hubin, The New York Times Book review

  • "(O)ne of the best Maigrets." - Raymond Mortimer, 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:

       The title already suggests an encounter with a pickpocket and, indeed, in the opening scene, aboard a bus, Detective Chief Inspector Maigret finds his wallet being lifted. There's not much money in it -- he rarely carries more than fifty francs with him, -- but with it he does lose his official papers and his police badge (number 0004). The pickpocket makes a clean getaway but it seems he has a conscience after all -- or is intimidated when he realizes whose papers he's stolen: the next day a package arrives at Maigret's office, containing everything that was taken.
       The pickpocket then contacts Maigret, whose reputation precedes him -- including, so the pickpocket has heard: "That you understand certain things that the police and the law courts usually don't understand".
       Maigret's understanding is certainly tested when the pickpocket, a young journalist looking to break into the film business named François Ricain, explains what's happened: Ricain's twenty-two-year-old wife, Sophie, is lying dead in their apartment, murdered. Ricain is the obvious suspect, but he claims he's innocent and Simenon refuses to jump to any quick conclusions. He'll investigate this like any other case:

     Perhaps this case was a mystery, or perhaps, on the contrary, it would turn out to be entirely straightforward. That's how it is at the start of every investigation, or almost.
       Maigret won't be convinced of Ricain's innocence unless he can prove it, but he seems inclined to give him the benefit of most of his doubt. Still, he's cautious -- reminding Ricain that: "It's not my job to trust people. I like to wait and see".
       Ricain doesn't have a great alibi for the time around when the crime was committed, though apparently, being in dire financial straits, he was seeking out anyone he might be able to borrow money from. The marriage didn't seem to be the happiest of ones, with both François and Sophie hooking up with others on occasion, and while Ricain's career showed some glimmers of promise, it was slow in coming; meanwhile, they were going to be evicted from their apartment soon.
       The circles the couple moved in are quite foreign to Maigret:
This is a strange case. Strange people. I'm in the world of cinema and, just like at the cinema, it all started with a stunt, the theft of my wallet.
       If the characters are from the world of cinema, Maigret pretty much only glimpses it at the periphery. Not surprisingly, much of the action takes place in a more familiar sort of establishment, a restaurant where they would often go eat. Still, quite a bit of the ways of the cinema-world and the interactions among its various players (e.g. "I had to sleep with her, out of good manners") are described to him at some length, and Simenon offers up quite a range of personalities and types.
       Eventually, of course, the pieces fall into place for Maigret and he identifies the guilty party. The elaborate plan behind the murder -- or, rather, the attempted cover-up by the one responsible for it -- ultimately proved too clever by half; still, it was: "So complicated, in fact, that it almost succeeded". And it is an interesting plan -- but in Maigret's Pickpocket Simenon struggles some to play it out to best effect. Not that he entirely outwits himself -- the novel is, as are practically all the Maigrets, strong on the interactions as Maigret questions and probes -- but Simenon never gets quite comfortable with the murder and its motive. Among the difficulties: he makes both Ricains unpleasant -- one of his assistants questions the neighbors and reports: "The words that came up most often were: savages, badly brought-up people, no morals" --, which is a lot to burden two characters with such prominent roles, as victim and prime suspect, in the novel with.
       Early on, we learn that Maigret's wife is taking driving lessons -- "an unexpected, even amusing turn of events" --, but Simenon never returns to this; indeed, Maigret comes to avoid his wife for most of the novel, taking his meals out, too. It's representative for the novel as a whole: an interesting bit of an idea that Simenon then can't properly weave into the story (or, perhaps, simply forgot about). (Maigret, of course, can not drive -- and accepts that: "It was too late to learn to drive. Too many things were going through his head".)
       There's a clever premise to Maigret's Pickpocket, and the novel does offer, in its individual scenes and description, many of the usual satisfactions of the Maigret-novels, but it doesn't cohere as a whole nearly as well as most of the others do.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 May 2022

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Maigret's Pickpocket: Reviews: 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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