Friday 27 January 2017

Two crime titles

A couple of crime titles to review today.

First up, Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon.

Maigret is now retired and living the quiet life in the country. His rural idyll is interupted one morning when a young man, Jean Maura, comes to call. He is French but his father lives in New York having moved there as a twenty year old. Just recently Jean's been getting letters from him that have given him cause for concern. He wants Maigret to take the boat to New York with him to help discover if his father is in some kind of trouble. It's the last thing the retired police inspector wants to do but eventually he is persuaded. Immediately the ship docks Jean Maura disappears. Maigret is now in America, speaking very little English and with no clear idea of where to begin to solve this mystery. But is there a mystery at all? The father is being very cagey and unconcerned. And if there is a mystery, has Maigret any business interfering where he has no jurisdiction?

This is #27 of the Maigret books, written in 1946 according to Goodreads. I was surprised to find him retired in it because there are loads more books after 1946 so I can only assume the timelines skip around a bit or he comes out of retirement as I remember Hercule Poirot did. Odd. Anyway, I enjoyed Maigret's expedition to New York very much. His culture shock was severe, partly because of the language barrier, but mainly to do with the idea of personal freedom that pervades the American way of life: the French are much more into officialdom, form filling and so on. Poor Maigret found it hard to cope. I did get a bit confused about who was who and who'd done what to whom and when, but got it sorted in the end. Not bad but think I prefer the earlier Maigret outings for atmosphere. And as to ITV's new productions of Maigret, starring Rowan Atkinson, I enjoyed them but am not really sure he suits the part. Suspect he will grow on me.

Next, The Lewis Man by Peter May.

Fin McLeod is back on the island of Lewis after divorcing his wife and giving up his job with the Edinburgh police. He has nowhere to live so is outdoors in a tent. A body has been found in a peatbog and at first it's thought to be thousands of years old, until a tattoo of Elvis is discovered on one of its arms. This is now a murder enquiry. Fin becomes involved when DNA reveals that the murdered young man is related to the father of Marsaili, his girlfriend when he was a teenager, and mother of his son. Marsaili's father, Tormod, has always professed to have been an only child with no living relatives. The problem is that he is now in the throws of dementia and answers to questions can't be relied upon. How on Earth can the truth be got at after all these years?

Well, this was quite an enthralling tale. It was a slow burner, gradually working up to being quite fascinating by about halfway when family history really starts to become the important aspect of the story. There are two parallel timelines going on, the events of the modern day dealing with Fin's investigations and personal problems, and that of sixty years ago told by Tormod in the first person. It sounds confusing but is not at all and works extremely well. The whole thing is compelling, it was a book I kept wanting to pick up read more of to find out what happened, but not just what happened... 'who' exactly people were. To be honest, as a whole, it was rather a sad tale so don't pick this up looking for cheerful story because you won't find it. What you will find is a beautifully written book with a wonderful sense of place in the island of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. There are some gorgeously descriptive passages that transport you right there, in all weathers... good, bad and downright diabolical. This is book two in May's 'Lewis' trilogy, the first book being The Black House which I read in 2013. I hope to read the final instalment, The Chessmen, later this year.

The Lewis Man is my first book for Peggy's Read Scotland 2017 reading challenge and my book three for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.



Kay said...

I loved THE LEWIS MAN - maybe even more than THE BLACKHOUSE. The story about dementia and memory hit very close to home and my parents and I was able to empathize with all concerned. I love the setting that Peter May shares with us and I love these characters. Glad it worked well for you, Cath!

DesLily said...

Hooray! I am glad you read the second book by Peter May!! I liked that whole series. He really is great at creating the scenes as to where he is..I felt like I was with him the entire time! How many books have you read already this year? sheesh! lol

BooksPlease said...

I've only read a few of the Maigret stories and not this one. I was quite surprised when Rowan Atkinson was cast as Maigret, but I think he's good - but then I can't stand his Mr Bean.

I loved all three of the Lewis Trilogy, so glad you love it too - definitely compelling reading. The third book is just as good.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I haven't read all the Maigret books by any means, but I used to enjoy them hugely and thoroughly enjoyed the re-runs of the original television series, when Rupert Davies played Maigret.

I'm not a huge fan of Rowan Atkinson, despite his undisputed talent, so I probably wouldn't bother with watching the recent re-makes.

With my FIL suffering ever debilitating dementia, I think that the Peter May series might be just a bit too much for me to read right now, although he is definitely an author I would want to read in the future.

Thanks for sharing and I hope that your latest find is every bit as good :)


Nan said...

I have the first Lewis trilogy book on my shelf. Is Maigret a series that should be read in order?

Nan said...

Oh, and I really love Rowan A as Maigret. And I also loved Mr. Bean. A big fave with my kids, too. Fond memories of watching him when they were little.

Cath said...

Kay: Yes, I think perhaps I enjoyed this one a little more than The Blackhouse though there's not much in it. I thought the dementia aspect was extremely well done and I learnt a lot about it by reading this book - a good thing.

Pat: He is *really* good at describing settings and weather and atmosphere. By the time I'd finished I felt like I'd been to Lewis!

Um... this year so far, eight books. Had a really good reading month after a slow autumn.

Margaret: Rowan Atkinson was really surprising casting for Maigret. I struggled during the very first episode but not so much when they showed the second at Christmas, so I'm getting there. It seems he's a very good straight actor. I'm not a Mr. Bean fan either but liked him in the Blackadder series.

I have the third Lewis book on the library pile so am looking forward to reading it.

Yvonne: This was my problem with the new Maigret series... I remembered Rupert Davies in the role and how much I had enjoyed the series as a child. ITV have made an excellent stab at a remake but I'm not sure they've quite captured the 1930s atmosphere. It all looks a bit clean.

I can quite see why you might not want to read the Peter May books at the moment, too close to home. That aspect of the story was very affecting and good for me, who knows little about it, to learn something.

Nan: No, you don't need to read the Maigret books in order. There's no ongoing back story and with around 60 or 70 of them written it would be almost impossible. I just grab random ones when I see them at the library.

I'm glad you're enjoying RA as Maigret. I'm getting there, I liked the Christmas one more than the first and his straight acting is really very good.

Judith said...

I agree with you that, in some ways, I never need to visit Lewis to know what it's like in all its atmospheric aspects. I may leap on to the third book this year, if there's time. I've got a lot of books on my reading plate.

Cath said...

Judith, yes... a hugely atmospheric book. I'm in awe of an author who can create such an amazing sense of place for those who have never been there. Though I am hoping to go there one day I must admit.

Like you, I also have a lot of books on the tbr pile... and I want to read them *all*. What a problem to have. LOL