Discover the Best Books by Georges Simenon

Georges Simenon was a prolific author who churned out over 200 novels and numerous short stories in his lifetime. His work spans across various genres, but he is most known for creating the iconic character of Inspector Maigret in the 1930s. Simenon’s unique approach to crime fiction and his ability to delve into the psyche of his characters have earned him a place in literary history as one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. In this article, we’ll explore Simenon’s life and career, his most famous creation, the Maigret series, and his standalone novels.

Discover the Best Books by Georges Simenon

The Life and Career of Georges Simenon

Simenon’s life was just as fascinating as his fictional work. He was born in Liège, Belgium, in 1903, and from a young age, he displayed an interest in writing. He dropped out of school at 16 and started working as a freelance journalist. Simenon then went on to write pulp fiction under various pseudonyms, honing his craft and developing his signature style.

Early Life and Influences

Simenon’s early years influenced his writing style significantly. He grew up in a working-class family and witnessed the struggles of the poor firsthand. This experience shaped his understanding of the human condition and formed the basis of his empathic writing style. His early exposure to literature, including the works of Balzac and Dostoevsky, also played a role in molding his voice.

Simenon’s writing style was characterized by his ability to create vivid, complex characters that readers could empathize with. He believed that the key to creating compelling stories was to understand the motivations and desires of his characters, which he achieved by drawing on his own experiences and observations of the world around him.

The Birth of Inspector Maigret

In 1930, Simenon introduced the world to Inspector Jules Amedee Francois Maigret, the protagonist of his most significant work. The Maigret series is a collection of 75 novels and 28 short stories that follow the investigations of the Parisian detective and his team. The character of Maigret is known for his sagacity, wit, and empathy.

The success of the Maigret series catapulted Simenon to international fame, and he became one of the most popular and prolific writers of the 20th century. His books were translated into more than 50 languages, and he sold millions of copies worldwide.

Simenon’s Prolific Writing Career

Simenon’s writing career was prolific, with him churning out books at an astounding rate, sometimes producing multiple novels in a single month. He would write his novels in a matter of weeks, often typing for up to 20 hours a day. His dedication to the craft allowed him to produce a staggering number of novels, which varied in genres, including mysteries, psychological thrillers, and romans durs (hard novels).

Simenon’s work was known for its psychological depth and its exploration of the darker aspects of human nature. He was unafraid to tackle taboo subjects such as sex, violence, and mental illness, and his writing often pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in literature at the time.

Later Years and Legacy

In his later years, Simenon retired to Switzerland with his wife. He continued writing until his death in 1989, shortly after completing his final novel, ‘Maigret and the Ghost.’ His unique style and contributions to crime fiction have had a significant impact on modern literature, and his influence can be seen in the works of many contemporary authors.

Simenon’s legacy as a writer is undeniable, and his impact on the genre of crime fiction cannot be overstated. His ability to create complex, empathic characters and his willingness to explore taboo subjects continue to inspire and challenge writers today. His body of work remains a testament to his talent and dedication to the craft of writing.

The Inspector Maigret Series

Introducing Inspector Jules Amedee Francois Maigret

Inspector Maigret

Inspector Maigret is one of the most beloved detectives in literary history, known for his intuitive investigative skills and excellent analytical abilities that enable him to solve even the most challenging cases. Maigret is a man of few words, and he values observation and contemplation over quick deduction. In many ways, Maigret is the antithesis of the typical detective found in crime fiction.

Top 5 Must-Read Maigret Novels

The Yellow Dog (Inspector Maigret Book 5)

Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the Maigret series or just getting started, these top five must-reads will give you a glimpse into the detective’s world and show you why Simenon’s creation is still relevant today. The list includes ‘The Yellow Dog,’ ‘Maigret and the Dead Girl,’ ‘The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien,’ ‘The Carter of La Providence,’ and ‘My Friend Maigret.’

‘The Yellow Dog’ is a classic Maigret novel, set in the small town of Concarneau, France, where a series of murders takes place. Maigret must navigate the town’s tight-knit community to solve the case. In ‘Maigret and the Dead Girl,’ Maigret investigates the murder of a young woman found in a Parisian canal. ‘The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien’ takes Maigret to Belgium, where he must solve the murder of a wealthy businessman. ‘The Carter of La Providence’ finds Maigret investigating a series of murders that take place on a canal boat, and ‘My Friend Maigret’ sees the detective solving a case on the island of Porquerolles.

The Evolution of Maigret Throughout the Series

The Maigret series is unique in that it depicts the evolution of the titular character over the years. In the early novels, Maigret is a relatively rigid character, focused solely on solving crimes, but he gradually becomes more introspective and empathetic as the series progresses. The later novels deal more with Maigret’s psychology and his relationships with those around him.

One of the most significant changes in Maigret’s character is his growing understanding and appreciation of human nature. In the early novels, he is often portrayed as cold and unfeeling, but as the series progresses, he becomes more compassionate and understanding towards the people he encounters. This change is particularly evident in the later novels, where Maigret is shown to be more introspective and reflective, often contemplating the complexities of the human mind.

Simenon’s Writing Style and Techniques in the Maigret Series

Simenon’s writing style is characterized by its concise language and attention to detail. He uses minimalist prose to convey the atmosphere of his settings and the moods of his characters. Simenon’s unique approach to writing is visible in the Maigret series, where he puts his focus on human complexity and psychology rather than plot twists and action sequences.

Simenon’s use of language is particularly noteworthy, as he has a talent for conveying a great deal of meaning in just a few words. His writing is spare and understated, yet it manages to capture the essence of his characters and their surroundings. Simenon’s attention to detail is also evident in the Maigret series, where he creates vivid and realistic depictions of the various locations and settings that Maigret encounters in his investigations.

Simenon’s Standalone Novels

Georges Simenon was a prolific writer who is best known for his series of detective novels featuring the French detective Jules Maigret. However, Simenon also wrote a number of standalone novels that are worth exploring. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Simenon’s standalone novels and highlight some of his lesser-known gems that are often overlooked.

The Psychological Thrillers

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (New York Review Books Classics)

Simenon’s psychological thrillers are often referred to as romans durs (hard novels), a term coined by the author himself. These books are not traditional whodunits; instead, they deal with the dark side of the human psyche. Simenon was a master at exploring the inner workings of the human mind, and his psychological thrillers are some of his most compelling works.

In these novels, Simenon delves into the minds of his characters, exploring their motivations and desires. He creates complex characters who are flawed and often morally ambiguous. These characters are not easily categorized as either good or bad; instead, they are complex and multifaceted.

Some of Simenon’s most famous standalone novels belong to this category, including ‘The Man Who Watched Trains Go By‘ and ‘Act of Passion.’ These novels are gripping and suspenseful, and they will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

The Roman Durs

The Snow Was Dirty (Penguin Classics)

In addition to the psychological thrillers, Simenon also wrote a series of standalone novels that are more traditional detective stories. These books are known as romans durs as well, but they differ significantly from the psychological thrillers.

In these novels, Simenon creates intricate plots that are full of twists and turns. The reader is kept guessing until the very end, as the detective works to unravel the mystery. These novels are more focused on the plot than the characters, but Simenon still manages to create memorable and interesting characters.

Some of Simenon’s most famous standalone novels belong to this category, including ‘Dirty Snow‘ and ‘The Widow.’ These novels are excellent examples of Simenon’s skill at crafting intricate and suspenseful plots.

Lesser-Known Gems Worth Exploring

The Little Man from Archangel

If you’re already well-versed in Simenon’s work, but have yet to delve into his lesser-known books, consider giving ‘The Little Man from Archangel,’ and ‘The Venice Train‘ a read. These books are often overlooked in favor of Simenon’s more famous works, but they are no less deserving of praise.

‘The Little Man from Archangel’ is a haunting and atmospheric novel that explores the aftermath of war. The main character, a soldier who has returned from the front, is haunted by the memories of the war and struggles to readjust to civilian life.

‘The Venice Train’ is a gripping thriller that takes place on a train traveling from Paris to Venice. The main character, a doctor, becomes embroiled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a mysterious woman who is traveling on the same train.

Both of these novels are excellent examples of Simenon’s skill at creating memorable characters and suspenseful plots. If you’re a fan of Simenon’s work, these lesser-known gems are definitely worth exploring.

Simenon’s Influence on Modern Crime Fiction

The Simenon Effect on Detective Fiction

Simenon’s unique approach to detective fiction has had a significant impact on the genre. He was one of the first authors to focus on the psychological aspects of criminal behavior rather than the crime itself. Many contemporary authors attribute their writing style and approach to crime fiction to Simenon’s contributions to the genre.

Contemporary Authors Inspired by Simenon

Simenon’s legacy continues through the works of modern-day crime writers who were influenced by his writing. Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, and Jo Nesbø are just a few of the authors who have acknowledged Simenon’s impact on their work.


Georges Simenon’s contributions to literature are undeniable. His unique blend of psychological insight and minimalist prose has earned him a place in literary history as one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. From the Inspector Maigret series to his standalone novels, Simenon’s work has stood the test of time and continues to influence modern crime fiction. If you haven’t yet delved into Simenon’s world, there’s no better time than now.


Who is Georges Simenon?

Georges Simenon was a Belgian author who wrote during the mid and late 1900s.

What does Georges Simenon write?

He is most famous for his novel series that follows the fictional detective, Jules Maigret. He predominantly wrote crime and detective fiction.

Is Georges Simenon dead?

Yes, Georges Simenon died in 1989 at the age of 86, in Switzerland.

Is there a TV series covering the Maigret detective stories?

Yes, the first was launched in the mid-1960s and the second in 2016. In the later adaptation, Rowan Atkinson took on the protagonist role and was praised for his characterization.

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