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.