"The Late Monsieur Gallet," previously translated into English as "Maigret Stonewalled," is one of the first Simenon novels featuring the police inquiries of Jules Maigret. In this instance, Senior Inspector Maigret is sent northward to Normandy to clear up what first appears to be a routine murder. The case, like the later "Man on a Bench," focuses on a man who has led a double life. This neatly showcases Maigret's signature approach to field investigations, i.e., unraveling a mystery by getting to know the deceased.
As often occurs when Maigret investigates a crime far from the capital, this one has him solving the case largely on his own, and the story lacks the presence of Maigret's Paris-based colleagues, especially Lucas, Janvier, Torrence, and LaPointe. This absence of trusted associates exaggerates Maigret's tendency to communicate little about his thought process, making the plot twists at the end of the book especially startling.
Typical of the entire Maigret oeuvre, issues of class differences abound in "The Late Monsieur Gallet". They not only signal Simenon's subtle handling of the French preoccupation with family background, but are also at the heart of the death under investigation. Evident too in this book is Simenon's exceptional talent for description. In my mind's eye, for example, I see the deceased's straight-laced wife, at first attired in mauve silk and later in mourning. Likewise, i feel that I have accompanied Maigret throughout his investigation in a sweltering provincial town.
The Maigret we meet in "The Late Monsieur Gallet" is less self-assured than the man we will come to know as the series unfolds, and occasionally this is a bit jarring. The writer Simenon too is less assured than he will become in later novels wherein plot complexities are handled more adeptly. Still, this book will please the vast universe of Maigret and Simenon aficionados for it helps lay the groundwork for books that will follow.