On the surface, it would appear there was nothing interesting about Louis Thouret. He was one of the many workers who left their suburban homes outside Paris every morning and took a train into Paris to work. There certainly seemed to be no good reason why he should have been murdered in a Parisian alleyway. But the more Chief Superintendent Maigret investigated the murder, the more curious questions kept turning up.
That's the situation in "Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard," a 1953 novel by Georges Simenon, the incredibly prolific author of hundreds of stories and novels, including 75 about Maigret. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Simenon's books are far more noteworthy for their characters than for their plots; Maigret normally solves the crimes he encounters by studying the people involved, coupled with largely routine police work. So it is with Louis Thouret, the quiet, nondescript victim of murder. When Thouret's widow is called to identify her husband, she does so - but informs Maigret that the victim is wearing the wrong clothes. Her husband would never wear shoes like that! Or such a tie! Certainly he did not wear them when he left home that morning! And where did he get all that money in his wallet? All she knew was that he went to work on the train each morning and came home faithfully on the train each evening.
As Maigret digs more deeply, he finds that Thouret was not the man he seemed to be. The company where he supposedly worked had closed three years earlier. As best as Maigret could tell, Thouret spent much of the day sitting on a bench on a boulevard. So where did his money come from? And what kind of work did Thouret really do - work that his shrewish wife knew nothing about?
It's a fascinating story. Reading Simenon, I find myself drawn into the lives of his characters. Little Monsieur Thouret stays in my imagination long after I have learned the answers to Maigret's questions. The murder mystery in this book, frankly, is secondary to the true mysteries of its chief characters. I am glad that Penguin has republished "Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard"; it is also available in an edition for the Amazon Kindle. I recommend it heartily.