Sunday, October 16, 2016

Book Review (Classic): The Yellow Dog (murder, France, dog)

The Yellow Dog: An Inspector Maigret Mystery, by Georges Simenon (written in 1931, translated from the French and reprinted by Penguin Classic in 2013, 134 pages, $10.00)

Just One of Many Good Ones

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (Jane) and Hercule Poirot, Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, PD James’ Adam Dalgliesh, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Belgian Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret – which is your favorite? And I believe they all appear in movies.

If you like one, you will probably like them all: a bit old-fashioned perhaps, set in Europe, very continental in language, style, and character development.

Simenon, who lived (and loved many) from 1903-1989, was either a Collaborator or a Jew, both or which (or either of which) adds to the mystery behind this mystery.

Cold and Dark . . . .

Although not a dark tale, memories of The Yellow Dog are of the cold, during a dark night, in a small coastal town and of the small bar and inn where much of the book takes place. The town of Concarneau is probably set on cliffs and becomes more deserted with murder after murder yet when something untoward occurs, a ‘mob’ soon forms, then disperses.

DogEvals was drawn to The Yellow Dog for several reasons – it was the first Inspector Maigret novel to become a movie (the 6th book, though, in the series of 78!) but not yet available on Netflix. And, of course, DogEvals loves dog books – some of them, at least. And we keep rooting for the yellow dog to play a larger role and for the book to earn the title given it. Or at least to have the title explained – the reason the yellow dog appears at the scene of the crimes. And the cover photo has us stumped.

Strictly Continental

The Yellow Dog is a murder mystery albeit a fairly short one and, being European rather than American, it is rather long on what just happened rather than what is happening now. In other words, long on explanations of action rather than on the action itself, so you can put it down and pick it up later when you have time or remember to.

In the Beginning

Let’s begin, shall we, with a murder, three suspects, a dark seaside port in France after the first war when phones and cars were not common, a young barmaid, reporters come down from Paris to inflame the newspaper stories, an anonymous reporter, and, of course, a yellow dog whom we never really get to know so when it is shot and stoned.  .  . but then treated by a veterinarian, thank goodness.

Pointing the Finger

We suspect the barmaid, then we suspect the mother or perhaps the non-practicing doctor. We want to be slick and guess the right one but the twists and turns in the end explain all. We only wish there had been a few more clues so we would have at least had a chance at being right.

More than one murder, several attempted murders – could there be two mysteries involved at the same time, just by coincidence? And could any of the attempts be accidents? And the yellow dog seems to appear whenever a murder occurs, then disappears.

As Good as Snoopy

The Yellow Dog begins better than just about any other beginning with the exception of “It was a dark and stormy night. .  . .” The reader sees, smells, hears, nearly tastes, and almost feels the French quai at night and is transported to the dark and stormy, lonely scene. Unfortunately, although such details appear throughout the book, this magic soon exhausts the reader.

For a light weekend read, to educate oneself on the great European mystery writers, to finally meet Inspector Maigret whom one has heard about all one’s life, to find out how a yellow dog could be the major character in a French novel or just because this is one of nearly 500 books written by the prolific Simenon (who had an affair with Josephine Baker) – all reasons to read The Yellow Dog or at least see the movie.

Caveat: this book was purchased for review.

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