The young woman named Anna Peeters had a note for Detective Chief Inspector Maigret. It was from his wife's cousin:
"My dear Maigret,
"Miss Anna Peeters has been recommended to me by my brother-in-law, who has known her for about ten years. She is a very responsible young woman, who will tell you of her misfortunes herself. Do what you can for her..."
She wasn't an ordinary supplicant. She didn't lower her eyes. There was nothing humble about her bearing. She spoke frankly, looking straight ahead, as if to claim what was rightfully hers.
"If you don't agree to look at our case, my parents and I will be lost, and it will be the most hateful miscarriage of justice..."
And that is why Maigret - who was supposed to be on his vacation - found himself instead in Givet, a small town on the Meuse River, right on the border between France and Belgium, where a young woman had disappeared - and Anna Peeters's family was accused of having murdered the missing girl. The story is told in The Flemish House, by Georges Simenon, and it's the topic of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
Anna Peeters's brother, Joseph, had had a child by a young local woman. The child was three years old. But her mother had disappeared, and her family insisted that the Peeters family had killed or kidnapped her. Arriving in Givet with no official standing (but welcomed by the local police, who believe that the Peeters family had indeed gotten rid of the young woman - but had no proof), Maigret spends his time talking to the people involved in the case. The main problem, from the point of view of the police, is that no body has been discovered – and without a body, there was no way to prove that anything at all had happened, that the missing girl had not simply decided to go away.
The Flemish House tells a fairly grim story, as many of the early Maigret novels do; there’s not much in the way of happy endings, I’m afraid. But it’s a compelling story, ably translated by Shaun Whiteside for a new Penguin Classics edition. The Maigret books, as a rule, are quite short – The Flemish House is only 146 pages – but they are very powerfully written. Maigret has long been a favorite, not only with French readers but with audiences around the world, and Penguin’s new translations deserve your attention.