book review: maigret and the death of a harbor-master

In my days shelving books as a page I knew Simenon’s Maigret books by their profusion of little spines. This is the first time I’ve ever read one. It was an old-style mystery wherein Maigret smokes a pipe and figures out what’s happened in a small French town in the 1940s. Maigret seems to have few jurisdictional problems despite being a Parisian police officer. There wasn’t much to it do delight me, but it didn’t make me angry either. It felt very much like the kind of thing Jessica Fletcher would have written.

The weirder part of this book is how I came to read it. I was at a local farmer’s market and one of the owners of the used book stall asked what I was reading. Always curious about other people’s reader’s advisory techniques I said I was between books and looking for something new. She asked if I was “a sophisticated reader” which struck me as odd. Maybe “sophisticated” doesn’t actually have a value judgment inherent in the word, but it still seems a loaded thing to ask a reader to identify as. And then, even using my humble disavowal of any pretensions towards especial sophistication, this was the book she recommended.

I can’t see anything terribly special about this book that would require someone to self identify as sophisticated in order to read it. It didn’t require any special knowledge or the ability to deal with complicated narrative forms or anything. I mean, if something requires a “sophisticated” reader I’d expect it to be something more complicated and have a bit more oomph to it than a knotty whodunnit.

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