I know what you’re thinking – she skipped a week. Last week I read “The Buzzard Table” by Margaret Maron, in her Deborah Knott series. Moran was new to me, but according to the blurb is huge in the US – which had me wondering why I hadn’t come across her before. As soon as I opened the book to find a family tree with two sets of identical twins, I realised. Family saga, with a crime loosely attached. Family sagas haven’t been popular here since…before I was born, pretty much. I wasn’t the right audience for this.
So instead, I transported myself to Sancerre on a hot August day where the perspiring Inspector Maigret is investigating the mysterious death in a hotel room of the travelling salesman M. Gallet. His colleague Inspector Nevers says, “You don’t know what the countryside’s like, Inspector! You may well be able to find nastier characters here than among the dregs of Paris.” And so he does.
There are many questions to answer: why is there such a great social gap between the not-very-grieving widow and her dead husband? Why was he shot and stabbed? Why did he insist on a room overlooking the “nettle lane”, and what happened to the key? And why was his son in the same town?
A slower, but no less vicious age, and I miss the days when crime fiction was allowed to be short, not measured by the yard. In this, every word counts. I’m glad Penguin is re-issuing them all in new translations. I suspect I’m going to be creating a bit more shelf space for some of the later ones. (Even though my father has the full set bar one, painfully tracked down book by book in the pre-internet era – I think he may be writing to Penguin to tell them to hurry up and release the volume he doesn’t have.)