Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters
by Georges Simenon
Penguin

Georges Simenon was famously prolific, producing an estimated 358 novels using an estimated 17 noms de plume. And that was only between the years 1921 and 1935. No wonder, then, that it has been hard to keep up with Penguin’s valiant effort to release new translations of all 75 of his Inspector Maigret novels, and quite a few others.

Simenon’s 39th Maigret mystery was released in 1952 and hints strongly at a transatlantic influence. The inspector is called by Madame Lognon. Her husband, a colleague of Maigret’s nicknamed the “Old Grouch”, has vanished. Finding Monsieur Lognon is no problem, but this only opens a case involving three gangsters imported not so much from America as from Dashiell Hammett. One, Sweet Bill, is a famed grifter. The others, Charlie Cinaglia and Tony Cicero, sound so much like movie mobsters as to be slightly comic. The sense of this novel being un poisson out of water grows when Simenon names a character Sloppy Joe Mascarelli, a key witness in a mafia trial. Simenon pulls it off, just about, but perhaps this isn’t an out-and-out classic.