THE SURVIVORS by Georges Simenon


Email this review


Unlike most non-Maigret Simenon novels, this 1938 work (published in Britain in 1949) is very close to a conventional murder-mystery--starting with the arrest of popular young sea-captain Pierre Canut, for the murder of old Emile F‚vrier, a resident of Pierre's hometown (a small Channel port). Everyone finds it hard to believe that brawny, easygoing Pierre is a killer--especially his brother Charles, who's an opposite sort: brainy, timid, a railway-station employee. So Charles, when not clunkily courting tavern-waitress Babette, is working to clear Pierre--whose supposed motive is linked to a bygone (1906) shipwreck: F‚vrier was one of the four sole survivors; the Canuts' young father died in the lifeboat, perhaps a victim of desperate, last-resort cannibalism, Was this, then, a revenge-murder? After all, the Canuts' widowed mother has been driven mad by that lingering tragedy-at-sea, with public outbursts against the hated F‚vrier. (Madame Canut claims that she killed F‚vrier, in fact, though no one believes her.) On the other hand, Charles' spotty sleuthing turns up several other suspects--from F‚vrier's long-estranged wife to more recent romantic involvements. So-so mystery, solid small-town atmosphere (with Simenon's ironic edgings)--and an intriguing character-sketch in Charles, who does manage to become a more aggressive sort. . . but winds up resuming his old role, with a new sense of acceptance.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich