Monday, 26 December 2016
Maigret's Dead Man - ITV and book review
Maigret's Dead Man was ITV's big Christmas Day production, marking a return to the screen for Rowan Atkinson as Jules Maigret. The screenplay by Stewart Harcourt was based on Georges Simenon's novel, a new edition of which I've just received for review from Penguin, who are steadily bringing back all the Maigret novels into print. (A big project - there are more than seventy of them...)
Atkinson's first outing as Maigret, Maigret Sets a Trap was screened at Easter. I rather enjoyed it, as I wrote on this blog, but overall, reaction was rather mixed. There will be some who feel that Maigret's Dead Man was not obvious seasonal fare, but I thought it was well done, and rather more compelling than the earlier adaptation. This is partly because Atkinson is growing into the role, partly because the storyline was more compelling.
A number of very violent robberies and murders are taking place at farms in Picardie. Maigret's assistance is sought, but he is distracted by the mysterious beating and murder of a man who has been trying to contact him by phone. The dead man said that Maigret knew his wife Nina, but the name rings no bells with the detective. We see some of the events of the dead man's last day - he is being pursued by two toughs, but we don't know why. Maigret is told not to waste his time on a gangland killing, but of course he is too persistent to let the matter slide.
When I first read Simenon as a teenager, I was disappointed that the Maigret stories weren't classic twisty whodunits. Nowadays I appreciate their virtues - in particular their glances at character, and their humanity. At the end of the TV programme, the adoption of a young child is proposed, and I was curious to see whether this was something just tacked on for the benefit of telly audiences (I wasn't sure the adoption was such a great idea, I must admit; to say why would be a spoiler). It turns out that that this strand of the finale is replicated, more or less, in the novel. Interesting. Overall, a good programme (although 90 minutes would have been a better length than 2 hours), and a good book.