When people talk about a policeman’s flair, or his methods, his intuition, I always want to answer:
“What about your shoemaker’s flair, or your baker’s.”
Both of these have gone through years of apprenticeship. Each of them knows his job and everything concerned with it.
The same is true of a man from the Quai des Orfėvres.
This is Maigret speaking, emphasising that his astonishing expertise has been hard won through experience. These memoirs include the years of his apprenticeship spent transferring from squad to squad learning to recognise the certain signs you cannot mistake that are associated with criminal activity and that make solving a crime so much easier – a matter of process if you will.
To know the milieu in which a crime has been committed, to know the way of life, the habits, morals, reactions of the people involved in it, whether victims, criminals, or merely witnesses.
The point is well made through case studies, and one I would do well to remember, because I have put my reading of Simenon’s series on hold after 10 novels due to frustration at the Inspector’s seeming omniscience. Not that Maigret has penned his memoirs in response to me. No, he has taken exception to this chap called Sim (later Simenon), an impertinent individual who showed up one day in 1927 or 1928 at the station with permission to shadow him, promising to use in his novels only what he may see or hear … in a format sufficiently altered to create no difficulties.
Except, of course, there were difficulties. Simenon used Maigret’s name, made him famous and caught him in a mesh from which he never managed to escape. Did Simenon’s Maigret copy from the “real” Maigret or has the “real” Maigret adopted the mannerisms of Simenon’s creation? It’s enough to make a grown man grumble or alternatively, resort to the pen in order to set matters straight!
In a hugely enjoyable metafictional conceit, Inspector Maigret takes his creator to task over the depiction of his fictional self! In the course of which he includes the charming story of his relationship with Madame Maigret – how they met, the first few years of their marriage, and her editorship of these memoirs. Plus the all important settling of differences between author and Inspector to form the friendship/partnership that produced 75 novels, even if they are according to the Inspector, not entirely accurate. (Best give him the last word today, I think.)