The Man Who Wasn't Maigret: A Portrait of Georges Simenon by Patrick Marnham - review by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes

Fair Treatment for the Belgian Sex Maniac

The Man Who Wasn't Maigret: A Portrait of Georges Simenon


Bloomsbury 320pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

In his book on the Lucan affair, Trail of Havoc, Patrick Marnham made one of the most vivid calculations in modern British biography. Lucan, he explained, was a very unadventurous eater. In his days as a house player at the Clermont Club, his taste ran to nothing but smoked salmon and lamb cutlets. The latter were grilled during the cold months and served en gelée in warmer times. Marnham therefore estimated: ‘If Lord Lucan ate four lamb cutlets a day, for four days a week, for eleven years, and if there are seven cutlets in a sheep, then he would have despatched 1,007 sheep.’

Patrick Marnham is excellently placed to write well about Simenon: he has forensic, journalistic and francophonic expertise. But an additional qualification must be a small numerological kink. Simenon’s life is pungently studded with figures like cloves in an orange. The 400-plus books he wrote; the 55 cinema and 279 television

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