And the side issues are almost as important as the crime itself. In this, the 53rd book in the series, Simenon opens with Detective Chief Inspector Maigret of the Police Judiciaire in Paris feeling his age, and looking forward to retiring in a couple of years. (Could it be that, like Sherlock Holmes, he will depart to the countryside and take up beekeeping?) The lousy weather doesn’t help his mood, and when it turns out that the examining magistrate he must report to is only just out of college, it reinforces his feeling that he is an old man, a relic of the past.

One of Maigret’s idiosyncracies when on a case is to withdraw into himself. His temper is notorious among his colleagues as the mystery deepens, and his rounded shoulders and gruff manner form part of the technique he has unconsciously built up over the years. In short, he can be a grumpy old bugger.

Madame Maigret knows to stay out of the way and keep quiet. She doesn’t ask him if he will be coming back for dinner, as she already knows that she might not see him for a day or two. After it’s all over, the couple will return to their rounds of the Parisienne bistros and cinemas.

But who are the reluctant witnesses”? The crime in this latest Penguin reissue of the 75 Maigret novels concerns the murder of the managing director of a long-established family firm making biscuits that have now faded from favour. The once-prosperous factory on Quai de la Gare was established in 1817 and is in a downward spiral. Logically it should have gone under financially a long time ago.

The murder occurs in the Lachaumes family home, a grim place of all-but-squalid penury. No one – the old couple who head the family and already look like family portraits, the dead man’s brother and his wife who have a loveless marriage, or the old family retainer – appears to have heard the fatal shot, despite all being in close proximity.

They all seem to know nothing, and close ranks in a way suggesting some shared secret. Maigret digs away, picking up on the scent of people’s private lives. Standing in the street, for instance, with his hands in his overcoat pockets and the rain on his face, he breathes in the bewildering atmosphere of Quai de la Gare.

He discovers that the victim’s sister-in-law is an heiress of three hundred million (francs?), and she keeps the firm and family alive with irregular injections of cash. But with such a fortune, why live in the same crumbling decay as the rest of the family?

Someone apparently crushed the glass on the top of the wall, put there to deter intruders, and then left a ladder lying around, in a clumsy attempt to make it look like the murder was committed during a burglary. And Maigret discovers another clue: a red Panhard convertible was seen parked nearby, but where does it fit in? What is going on within this odd family? And apart from the over-zealous examining magistrate, Angelot, he must deal with a frustrating family lawyer, Radel.

Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses” was first published as Maigret et les Témoins récalcitrants” in 1959. The 75 books in the series were written between 1931 and 1972, and Penguin is republishing the lot, in paperback, one a month with new translations and covers from Magnum Photos. Simenon usually dashed them off in a burst of writing – about a week each time for a slim book around 170 pages.

His Maigret always employs a lot of psychological understanding, probing the suspects with relentless and sometimes unusual questions that get under their skin. “Something was emerging, although still only a backdrop. Most of the protagonists remained hazy, indistinct, with just the occasional clearer feature here and there.”

The stories have a certain sameness to them but that is one thing that keeps readers coming back – only 22 to go until the end of the series.

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