To start with, appropriately, a confession of guilt. Although there could be no greater admirer than I of Georges Simenon, I had not until now read a single one of his Maigret novels. The Simenon I know and revere is the author of such extraordinary fictions as Dirty Snow, Monsieur Monde Vanishes and The Strangers in the House. These are examples of what he called his romans durs, or ‘hard’ novels, and they represent the achievement he was most proud of, and rightly so. Yet many readers are unaware of these works; for them, Simenon is notable solely as the creator of one of the most famous, most believable, most enduring and endearing fictional sleuths, Detective Chief Inspector Jules Maigret of the Paris Flying Squad.
Pietr the Latvian is the first novel in which Maigret figures, and it is the first in the complete Maigret series – 75 titles in all – which Penguin will be publishing, in new versions by various translators, at the rate of one a month over the coming years. It