Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mr. Hire's Engagement by Georges Simenon

Here is a brief book review that I wrote two years ago for BookLoons, North America's premiere book review site which you can visit via this link; I offer a reprint of the review here for several reasons, two of which I discuss in the postscript following the review:

Mr. Hire's Engagement by Georges Simenon (Penguin, 2015)

First published by Fayard in 1933 as Les Fiancailles de M. Hire, the Anna Moschovakis 2015 Penguin translation of Georges Simenon's Mr. Hire's Engagement recreates a scene that the author witnessed as a young reporter in Liege, a scene which continued to haunt him for years afterwards: that of an angry mob, and a man chased on to a roof, clinging to the cornice to keep from falling to his death.

So what should you know about this highly recommended 156-page novel? Consider this: Mr. Hire – a short man, on the fat side, with a curled moustache – always carries a black briefcase under his arm. What does he do for employment? Well, nobody really knows. He leaves his apartment in the morning and comes back in the evening. He is very much a mystery.

In the meantime, a newspaper article helps explain the situation in Mr. Hire's neighborhood: '... for fifteen days ... a tricky investigation ... big step forwards, thanks to the identification of the corpse ... most likely a certain Leonide Pacha, known as Lulu, a professional call girl, suggesting a sadistic motive ... still possible ... but the victim's purse was missing ... according to corroborating evidence it would have contained some 2,000 francs ... a new lead ... the inquiry enters its final phase ... discretion is of the essence ...'

Well, for two weeks, detectives have been spending their days and sometimes their nights in Mr. Hire's neighborhood, keeping watch. They suspect the short, fat man. But, constant reader, they might be wrong.

But stop. I cannot say more about without undermining your reading pleasure with plot spoilers, so I will instead say only this: Simenon's splendid crime novels – now being reissued by Penguin – have become my favorites, and I agree with what William Faulkner said of the prolific French author: 'I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of Chekhov.' Need I say more? Enjoy!

* * * * *


Even though the highly recommended Mr. Hire's Engagement does not feature Georges Simenon's magnificent creation, one of my favorite fictional sleuths, Inspector Maigret, I have taken a moment to "republish" the review as both an invitation to you and a reminder to me.

Invitation to Excellence: You are invited to read anything you can find by Georges Simenon, an author of exceptional skills whose novels will not disappoint you.

Reminder to Self: I am reminded that dozens of Simenon's short novels, most of them less than 200 pages and featuring Inspector Maigret, are collecting dust on my bookshelves, and I hope to do some reading-and-reviewing of Simenon's books in the coming weeks and months. Well, I make no promises, because (like mice and men) I know that I should not make any plans about anything, much less long-range plans about reading-and-blogging (e.g., my posting earlier today entitled "Things fall apart"), but reading all of my Simenon books is something I hope to accomplish.

In any case, perhaps one day soon on the Simenon hit parade here at Informal Inquiries will be Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters (Penguin, 1 August 2017) and a few others in the Maigret series. Well, perhaps.

Now, here are some questions and a final invitation:

Have you read Simenon's work?
Do you agree with William Faulkner's assessment (as noted in the review above)?

I say that no other crime fiction writer in history was so prolific and so consistent (i.e., his novels are damned good!) but I invite you to argue with me about my assertion.


  1. S's books are pretty good, but there are other authors i think are better... Christie, (wait for it...) Crispin, Innes, Chandler, MacDonald, Carr, Doyle, even Hewitt... on second thought, i guess they're all good in their own way; i'm just not totally comfortable reading S.... for some unaccountable reason...

    1. Mudpuddle, "pretty good" still makes Simenon's books better than most. As for your favorites, excepting Doyle, they are usually not as concise as Simenon; his brief "novellas" are such pleasant, short-attention-span diversions. Perhaps if I post more reviews about his books, I might bait the hook and reel you in a bit more. Well, perhaps.

  2. In my opinion, Tim, Simenon is a 'must read' for anyone who has interest in crime fiction. They're fine examples of that genre. And, as you point out, they're consistently goo.

    1. Margot, please do NOT be offended, but I laughed out loud at your comment about the Simenon novels being "consistently goo." I've read some slippery prose in my lifetime, but gooey prose is a new low. Don't you just love computer keyboards and the sinister gremlins that change our intended words! Hmmmmm.

  3. R.T.--I've read several of Simenon's Maigret mysteries, but haven't gotten around, yet, to his other works. But, some day. . .

    As for Faulkner's comments, I also enjoy reading Simenon, but I must admit I never thought of Chekhov while reading him.

    1. Yes, Fred, that comparison requires some explanation. I wish Faulkner were still here to explain it.

  4. A couple years ago I started off by reading a collection of 5 Maigret novels and then got hooked on Simenon's psychological novels. I like them even more than the Maigret series. Over the next few months I read over 100 of his novels. Most are short enough to read in a day but they are excellent.

    1. Wow, over 100, Walker! I'm envious. I'm a Simenon novice by comparison.