Death Threats and Other Stories by Georges Simenon review

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From the opening paragraphs describing a retired Inspector Maigret being enticed into investigating the death of a guest found naked in a bath in a Cannes hotel it would be hard not to get hooked by this enjoyable new collection of short stories featuring the famous French detective.

This first of the five stories included continues to unfold in a glamorous Riviera setting and sees Maigret unwillingly drawn into solving a riddle featuring a mystery over the victim’s identity, small clues, and murderous plotting that lacks nothing for being packed into three short, gripping chapters.

Nor does brevity detract from any of the four other mysteries in the book, which includes the tale of a psychologically tense pursuit of a suspect across Paris and another involving a love triangle in the Loire countryside, before concluding with Maigret’s deployment to try to prevent a murder within a wealthy family riven by conflict.

Each of the stories was written by Georges Simenon during the Second World War but are being published here now, three for the first time in English, by Penguin Classics in the wake of the completion of the imprint’s successful 75-strong series of full Maigret novels, the last of which was released early last year.

Fans of that series, from which more than one million book have already been sold, will not be disappointed by this additional treat, while others who have yet to delve into it could do far worse than try this as a taster.

One reason is the range covered by the five stories, which include two featuring Maigret in his retirement as well as one during a spell in the Nantes Flying Squad, as well as another two with him in his famed role in the Parisian Police Judiciaire, taking in a similarly varied mix of locations.

Other attractions are Simenon’s ever compelling portrayal of the slow moving, often impenetrable detective himself and the author’s typically skilful unravelling of the different mysteries, captured perfectly in this fresh translation.

There’s little that jars although Maigret’s observation in the final story, Death Threats, about a scantily clad and “gloriously immodest” young female that “when a woman has a body like that, she should conceal it, otherwise.. “ displays an attitude more reflective of the era in which the author was writing than today.

No matter. It’s all part of the fine evocation of period and readers will surely race through each story with relish. Bite size morsels they may be, but with such good writing they’re an ideal way to fill a few hours.

Death Threats and Other Stories by Georges Simenon (Penguin Classics, £8.99)

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