by Georges Simenon
When you plan a whodunit, there are certain unwritten rules you should obey. You should not, for example, make your killer a minor, inconsequential character. You also should not introduce him (or her) very late in the story. If you violate those conventions, you are cheating the reader who is striving to discover “whodunit.” Simenon, famed mystery writer that he is, violates both rules in Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard. That’s a strike against him.
Now that I’ve vented, let me add some praise. Unlike in Agatha Christie stories, Simenon’s characters are three-dimensional, not recurring stereotypes. The protagonist, police detective Maigret, gathers most of his clues through interrogations (much like Christie’s Poirot), but the suspects are gritty, colorful, and memorable – very often street toughs. In short, Simenon is great with character and dialogue, but not so great with plot. At least not in this book.
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