Maigret in Vichy
PublisherPenguin Classics
Date Published06 June 2019
Price£ 7.99

Maigret in Vichy

by Georges Simenon

Maigret is ordered to take the waters in the spa town of Vichy, but his rest cure is disturbed when a woman is murdered.


Maigret is under orders from his doctor friend to take a holiday, a proper holiday where he isn’t in contact with colleagues in Paris. His doctor prescribes a stay in the spa town of Vichy, where he is to take the waters, walk more, eat sensibly and drink less. Madame Maigret accompanies him on the rest cure and his daily visits to the spa to drink the slightly sulphurous waters, watch boules being played and sit in the chairs at the bandstand and watch the other inhabitants of the renowned spa going about their daily business.

People-watching comes naturally to Maigret and his skills in the area have stood him in good stead through numerous cases in Paris and elsewhere. But even his long background in criminal cases doesn’t prepare him for the news that one of the women he had noticed on his daily regime in the town has been found strangled in her apartment. With a clear case of murder in the town, it’s hard for Maigret to remain uninvolved, especially as the local police know he’s in town and are keen to seek his insights into the woman’s death.

I’m thoroughly ashamed to say that in all my years of reading crime fiction, I have never before ventured into a story featuring France’s most celebrated detective but I’m now kicking myself for so many lost opportunities. I was sucked in from the start by the book’s gentle but never ponderous pace. I very quickly began to feel like I was taking a rest cure alongside the great man and his patient, supportive wife.

Maigret’s style of investigation is equally restful. He thinks a lot, talks little – except when he has something to say – and quickly gets to the heart of things by a process of acute observation and his deep understanding of human nature, honed on the whetstone of long acquaintance with the criminal fraternity.

Seeing Vichy and its inhabitants through Maigret’s eyes was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. The story gradually gathered momentum and finally the veil of obscurity was lifted to a resolution that was as sad as it was satisfying. There’s plenty of moral ambiguity here, which always appeals to me, and I’m certain that this won’t be my only steps into the world created by Georges Simenon. The Penguin Classics reissue of all 75 novels might be nearing its end, but there’s still plenty more for me to enjoy.

Reviewed 31 January 2020 by Linda Wilson