The Misty Harbour (Maigret 15) by Georges Simenon

Mystery man

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

A man has been picked up in the streets of Paris, wandering around in what is clearly a state of distress. There is nothing on him to identify him and he doesn’t speak. Beneath the wig he’s wearing, the police discover a recently healed gunshot wound, which seems to account for his befuddled state. After a publicity appeal, a woman comes forward and identifies him as Yves Joris, formerly a captain in the merchant navy, now the harbour-master at Ouistreham, a small port in Lower Normandy. The woman is his maid, Julie, and she’s upset to find him in his present condition. She tells the police that he disappeared six weeks ago, and had no wound at that time. So when and where was he shot? And who tended his wound? How did he end up wandering the streets of Paris? Who gave him the little bundle of new banknotes found in his pocket?

Maigret accompanies Joris and Julie back to Ouistreham with a view to finding out what has happened to Joris. But the case takes a darker turn when the next day Joris is found dead in his bed, poisoned with strychnine…

This one is a real puzzle and Maigret has to do a lot of proper detective work to get at the truth. He also stays largely sober, spending more time on the case than in bars for once, which works well for me – I find his usual endless drinking rather tedious. He soon realises he needs assistance so sends for his dependable colleague, Sergeant Lucas, to join him. It becomes apparent that many of the people of the small town may be involved in some way, and as is the way in tight-knit communities, people are not always willing to share what they know with the police. So Maigret and Lucas have to do a lot of spying and eavesdropping to find out what’s been going on.

Book 18 of 20

As always, the setting is one of the main strengths of the book. Ouistreham is frequented by merchant ships plying their trade around the Nordic countries and across to Britain, and Simenon works this into the story. We soon learn there’s some kind of Norwegian link, while Julie’s brother, Big Louis, is a seaman on a ship that becomes the focus of Maigret’s investigation, since it was in port both when Joris disappeared and again when he is murdered. Louis has a history of violence and has spent time in jail, but Julie is convinced of his innocence in this matter. But then, is Julie innocent? It appears that Joris has left her everything he had, and since a large deposit has recently been made into his bank account she’ll do quite well out of his death. Suspicion doesn’t only fall on these two though – the local mayor is behaving oddly too, and Maigret soon becomes aware of a mystery man who was also in the town at the relevant time.

Georges Simenon

I must say I had no idea what this was all about until Maigret revealed all at the end, and I’m still not sure that all the loose ends are properly tied up. However, as I say regularly, I find my concentration levels dip more when listening to an audiobook than when reading, so it may well be that I missed some bits of explanation along the way. No matter – the fact that I felt a couple of minor questions were left unanswered didn’t spoil my enjoyment overall. Maigret’s depiction of this small working port is excellent, the detection element is well done, there is some good characterisation, and the major story revolves around messy human relationships – my favourite kind! One of the stronger Maigret novels for me, and I may well read it in a “proper” book format sometime to see if it clears up those bits of the story that remained misty for me this time!

Audible UK Link

28 thoughts on “The Misty Harbour (Maigret 15) by Georges Simenon

  1. I prefer Maigret books where he leaves Paris, I find the writing very atmospheric when he heads for the coast as in this one or Maigret in Holland, The yellow Dog etc. Have you seen any of the Rupert Davies series currently being shown on one of the Freeview channels? They’re not bad.

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    • I’ve still only read a few of the Maigrets so haven’t really worked out preferences, but I note that the ones I’ve rated most highly recently have been ones that have taken him out of Paris. I do find them quite variable – sometimes they feel as if he’s not put much work into them, while other times the plotting and characterisation has quite a lot of depth. No, I haven’t seen those adaptations – I’ll have a look and see if they’re showing up on one of my cable channels!

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  2. I do like a good Mairgret novel, FictionFan. And the idea of the ‘nameless person’ is intriguing, because it can lead in so many directions. As you say, Simenon excelled at depictions of place and local setting, both physical and cultural. That in itself is enough to make those books interesting. But I also like the way he creates puzzles. Glad this one lived up to standards for you!

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    • I always like his descriptions of the places best and it’s that that I remember about the books, far more than the plots. I like that he sets them in working places rather than tourist areas – it gives a feel for the “real” France, I think. I’m sure the plot of this one wouldn’t have seemed quite so complicated if I’d been reading rather than listening!

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    • I’m really much better at listening to re-reads as audiobooks since those gaps in concentration don’t matter so much then. But the Maigrets are always entertaining even if I don’t know what’s going on! 😉

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  3. I’ve only read one Maigret, the first one and although I enjoyed it I’ve never found time to go back for more, this sounds good – I presume you can just pick them up in any order?

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    • Yes, the order doesn’t seem to matter. I think his family develops in the background but they’re really not in it much, or at all, quite a lot of the time. So far I tend to find I enjoy the earlier ones more than the later ones, but overall they’re quite variable.

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  4. I’m not in any hurry to do so, but I still think I’d like to try one of these someday. I was pleased for your sake to see a good number of smiles at the top. 😀

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    • I enjoy them mostly because they’re quite short so work well as fillers between chunkier reads, and I like the audiobook narrations. But in truth I’m not as big a fan of them as I am of British Golden Age writers.

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  5. You know, I read one Maigret so long ago that I can’t remember it, but I never continued and I’ve been wondering why. Maybe it’s the drinking, because I hate that so common trait that authors give their detectives.

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    • I always find the setting is the main strength in the Maigret books, and it tends to be what I remember about them too – the plots fade pretty quickly! I enjoy them though, and because they’re always short they work well as fillers between chunkier books.

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  6. This one sounds good, and I enjoyed reading your review. I think I’d have the same problem with an audiobook: listening. With a print version, if you find you’ve missed something, you can go back and check. I suppose you could with audio, too, but somehow that seems a bit clunkier.

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    • I really get on better with listening to re-reads, since it doesn’t matter so much then if I have concentration gaps. Or long slow novels seem to work too. But short, fast novels often leave me feeling as if I must have missed bits! And yes, scrolling back is a complete pain with audiobooks.

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  7. I just recently unearthed this book in a box of books I had not been through in a while. I will have to put it high on the list of Maigret books to read.

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    • I find them very variable and this was definitely one of my favourites so far, though I’ve still only read a handful of them. I always like it when there’s more emphasis on the actual investigation element.

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