Early, offbeat Simenon (first published in 1931), with little traditional detection, an unusually edgy Inspector Maigret,...

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MAIGRET'S WAR OF NERVES

Early, offbeat Simenon (first published in 1931), with little traditional detection, an unusually edgy Inspector Maigret, and heavy emphasis (even by Simenon standards) on abnormal psychology. Joseph Heurtin, a slow-witted delivery boy, has been condemned to death for murdering a rich American widow living in Paris. But, despite the strong evidence (footprints and fingerprints galore), Maigret is convinced that Heurtin--who will neither confess nor explain his apparent guilt--is innocent. So the Inspector persuades the powers-that-be to let Heurtin escape from death row, hoping that the pathetic lad will somehow lead the police to the real killer. What happens, however, is far from that simple. Heurtin, after hanging around for hours outside the bar of the posh Coupole restaurant, attempts suicide. The playboy-nephew of the murdered American woman--an obvious suspect--also tries to kill himself (with more success), soon after visiting that same Coupole bar. And Maigret's attention is increasingly focused on a strange habituÉ of the bar: Czech medical student Johann Radek, who has no apparent link to the murder--but who knowingly taunts Maigret during a series of cat-and-mouse encounters. . .and is eventually revealed to be a psycho-killer with delusions of grandeur, driven by ""this craving to humiliate people and at the same time to weave complications."" (There are foreshadowings here of, among others, Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train.) Unconvincing as a case-study, unshapely as mystery--but an intriguing little period-curio, nonetheless, for Maigret/Simenon fans.

Pub Date: March 11, 1986

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1986