The Pequod Review:
Georges Simenon takes Maigret to the United States with his 1949 detective novel, Maigret at the Coroner's. It's a promising set-up that gives Simenon a chance to explore the differences between the French and American judicial systems, as well as each country's cultures:
There was the difference that the Americans were more friendly. Whether in New York or in one of the ten or eleven states he had been through since, people would tap him on the shoulder: "What's your first name?"
He couldn't very well tell them he didn't have one. The result was that he had to admit he was called Jules. His Interlocutors would pause to consider a moment. Then, "Oh, yes... Julius!"
Jullus, pronounced in the American manner, already seemed to him a little less distressing than Jules.
"Have a drink, Julius!"
Thus It happened that, in an incalculable number of bars, he had drunk an incalculable number of bottles of beer, Manhattan cocktails, and shots of whiskey.
Many things difter from one country to another; some things are the same the world over.
But perhaps what changes most across the borders is misery.
The misery of the poor quarters of Paris, of the little bistros around the Porte d'italie or Saint-Ouen, the filthy wretchedness of the Zone and the more decent wretchedness of Montmartre or Père-Lachaise were all familiar to him. The bottom-line misery of the piers, too, of Place Maubert or the Salvation Army.
All that is misery one can understand, whose origins are known and whose scenario one can follow.
But here he guessed at the existence of a misery without tatters, cleanly, wretchedness with bathrooms, which seemed to him even harsher, more implacable, more desperate.
But the procedural plot is not one of Simenon's best, and the American setting ultimately lacks the atmospheric beauty of his European books.