“The Premier” by Georges Simenon

I had never read anything by Simenon, a man who wrote an extraordinary number of books (approaching 200), largely mysteries featuring Inspector Maigret.  I felt I should give him a try, and there was one of his short works (about 150 pages) on the 50 cent rack, so I picked it up.  And read it in two sittings yesterday.

But “The Premier”, written in 1957,  is not a mystery in the normal sense, and is not about Maigret.  It is about a former French prime minister, now in his 80s, in rural retirement, who leaves his favorite chair only for his meals, his bed and his short daily walk, and whose contact with the world is by and large limited to the 5 p.m. news.  But he has a secret – in his library, hidden in various books, are documents that contain embarrassing things about younger French politicians.  Including the 60 year old politician who has been asked by the President to form a government and who was the protege of his older mentor.  The younger man knows that The Premier can ruin his chances to form a government if he releases this document, which he knows he has in his possession.  Does this mean, as the former premier thinks, that the younger man will contact him to get his “advice” on his new government?

Well, it doesn’t turn out that way.  Because as it turns out the secrets were not secret.  And the old premier’s staff were working not only for him.

And interesting book to read (in translation), but not one I would particularly recommend.

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