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No. 28: Maigret Sets a Trap by Georges Simenon (reading notes and reflections)

Original title: Maigret tend un piege. Translated by Daphne Woodward (1965). 

This is the first Maigret book I have read in ages. 

Opening a Maigret novel is like visiting old friends, not just Maigret, Madame Maigret, Janvier and all the rest, but also Paris. 

In this book, we jump into the middle of an investigation of serial murders in Montmartre and Maigret is about to set a trap for the killer. It doesn't go quite to plan - he escapes, but does leave behind a piece of evidence that will lead the police to him. 

Like most other Maigret books I have read, this isn't a whodunnit. In the Maigret books, the identity of the killer isn't often hidden from the reader until the last chapter, and instead we get to see how Maigret figures it out (although sometimes the killer is known from the beginning). Then the rest of the book is about either proving it or applying so much psychological pressure that the killer gives up and confesses. In this book, there is the usual psychological warfare, but, unusually, Maigret doesn't wage it directly against the killer.

One of the things I like about Georges Simenon's books is the psychological elements. He has written taut, insightful psychological novels, like The Conspirators, and usually includes such elements in the Maigret books, but on this occasion the part of the psychology that is used to explain why the killer kills is quite superficial. One does have to keep in mind that the book was written in the mid-1950s, when theories about serial killers and sociopaths were different from what they are now, but it still felt a bit cheap. The psychological warfare, however, is masterfully done and plays on that age-old human sentoment: jealousy.

Not the best Maigret novel I have read, but it's not the worst either. I don't think I will keep this one - instead I will release it and give someone else a chance to enjoy it.


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