Wednesday, 10 June 2015

One Man's Opinion: LOCK 14 by GEORGES SIMENON

Plenty going on in the world just now.

I’ve just come from a really nice read of an interview between Patti Abbott and Rob Hart. It’s a story that shows up some of the stresses and trials a writer may have to go through and is an example of how the effort is worth it when the quality is there. You can find it here if you’re interested.

I’m also enjoying a rare warm day here on the coast. I feels like summer and I’m going to take full advantage of it. I even wrote outside today. That doesn’t happen often. Whether it’s the weather or has more to do with me reaching a tipping point in my current novel, I’m not sure, but I’m hoping to make hay. This one’s the fourth in the Southsiders (US)series. If you haven’t checked out book one, take the link and have a look. Books two and three are somewhere in the Blasted Heath ether just now, but I have a feeling it won’t be long before we crack on.

Talking of Blasted Heath, I’m currently reading Ray Banks’s Angels Of The North (US). If I had a load of boxes that I liked to tick for a novel, this one would definitely have most of them covered. It’s tremendous stuff. How’s this for a turn of phrase?

   ‘She hated him like he was made of salad.’

In context of the sloth of a lady being discussed, this is absolutely perfect. I can wholeheartedly recommend the book even though I’m just a third of the way through (there’s no way this one is going to let me down).

Also in the land of the Heathens, it’s not long until the premiere of the movie of Douglas Lindsay’s books on Barney Thomson. The film’s called The Legend Of Barney Thomson and if you want to get up on what is likely to be a very hip and cult piece, you might do well to read the books first. The omnibus (US) is a bargain.

I can also offer you this freebie if you don’t have it yet. Beat On The Brat (US) is available to download for nothing for what’s left of today and tomorrow.

And to my thoughts on last week’s read.

I’ve read George Simenon’s Lock 14 (US)before. It was many years ago and at the time I was living on a boat on the Regent’s canal in London, which most likely made the book all the more of a treat.

This time around, it carried waves of nostalgia, set as it is on the canal boats of France.

A murder has happened at Lock 14. The body of a woman is discovered in the straw in a stable. She’s clearly not a local, but is unknown by all.

When she is identified as the wife of the owner of a pleasure boat, the almost aristocratic Sir Lampson, Maigret is surprised by the cold reactions of all those who knew the victim. There’s plenty of stiff-upper-lip and more besides.  

The search for the killer proves to be perplexing and the clues that are found seem to appear a little too easily for Maigret’s liking. It’s all compounded further when one of Sir Lampson’s companions is also found dead.

Lampson becomes the chief suspect, but he carries himself well and does his best to cope with things by remaining in a haze of alcohol.

Other boats and crews come in to play. There’s a touching relationship between a boat-owner and her mute crew, a beast of a man in the Jean Valjean mode. We have the entertaining Madame Negretti, soon to be thrown out like a piece of used trash, the stoic Russian Vladimir and the community who inhabit the Lock-keeper’s bar. All of them are to come under suspicion and it’s not a simple thing for Maigret to unpick.
As the story unfolds, there are some nice studies of canal life. We get to see inside the homes of a community of people in decline. There’s conflict between the diesel boats and the horse-drawn craft and they’re always in competition to get the best runs in order that they can do as much business as possible. There’s also, as is often the case, the pleasure of Maigret’s musings on the layers of society and his ability to feel respect for folk from any of those tiers as long as they’re worthy of it.

The first two thirds of this one were pleasurable rather than gripping, but it’s all worth the effort to get through for the last section where it all comes together to reach a powerful and emotional climax.

A good read then, if perhaps not a great one. The kind of book you might enjoy while idling away time on holiday or while taking a leisurely journey down the canal some time. It certainly had me looking forward to my summer break in France this year and I'll definitely be taking along another Maigret as a companion when I go. 

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