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Pietr the Latvian

Inspector Maigret, Book 1
Narrated by: Gareth Armstrong
Length: 3 hrs and 57 mins
3 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

The first audiobook which appeared in Georges Simenon's famous Maigret series, in a gripping new translation by David Bellos.

Inevitably Maigret was a hostile presence in the Majestic. He constituted a kind of foreign body that the hotel's atmosphere could not assimilate. Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn't have a moustache and he didn't wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands. But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man. His firm muscles filled out his jacket and quickly pulled all his trousers out of shape. He had a way of imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had often irked many of his own colleagues.

In Simenon's first novel featuring Maigret, the laconic detective is taken from grimy bars to luxury hotels as he traces the true identity of Pietr the Latvian. Georges Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium, in 1903. Best known in Britain as the author of the Maigret books, his prolific output of over 400 novels and short stories have made him a household name in continental Europe. He died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life.

David Bellos is Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University and has won many awards for his translations including the Man Booker International Translator's Award (2005).

©2013 Georges Simenon (P)2013 Audible Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Compelling, remorseless, brilliant" (John Gray)
"One of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.... Simenon was unequalled at making us look inside, though the ability was masked by his brilliance at absorbing us obsessively in his stories" ( Guardian)
"A supreme writer... unforgettable vividness" ( Independent)

What members say

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  • Zaubermond
  • 19-11-2014

Long live Maigret

I've been disappointed with so many new, highly acclaimed books lately that I find myself turning back to the classics once again. (As usual, curmudgeon that I am). Now I'm working my way back through the Simenon canon and enjoying every minute. I'd almost forgotten how much I loved Maigret! A big, strong, man of few words who can take a bullet and keep on working, never complaining or blaming. For me, that's old school sexy and I'd like to see it come back into style!

The stories are edgy, sometimes raw, and always realistic. Paris is not idealised as it is so often, but shown with all its flaws and very much anchored in that particular postwar time. Simenon knows how to choose just the right detail in his description, saying volumes in a simple but compelling observation. Such simplicity is a great gift, and much appreciated.

In short, you can't go far wrong. The translation is good, the story fast-paced and interesting, and Gareth Armstrong has fantastic pacing, a beautiful voice, and gives us an excellent narration. May you enjoy taking a trip into the old days with the unforgettable, highly original character that is Maigret.

51 of 52 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kathi
  • 03-03-2014

First of the Maigret books--well narrated

Georges Simenon, a Belgian writer in early 20th century, wrote many novels--perhaps most notably the Commissaire Jules Maigret series. Maigret is a detective in the French police, and he seems to find his criminal without using the customary procedural methods, but just following his own instincts.

In this book, the first in the series, Maigret is seeking a criminal who eludes him most cleverly. He seems to appear everywhere, only to be elsewhere instead. It begins with Maigret examining a body in the lavatory of a train, who looks like the man he is chasing, but he finds that Pietr has escaped, which begins his pursuit of him in many cities.

The writing is plain, lacking some of the exciting twists and turns of later detective stories, but fun because Simenon has created a character with a distinct personality (his pipe, his hat, his individualized way of pursuing his adversary). He tends to seek "the crack in the wall," meaning he uses a bit of psychology--waiting until he can observe his criminal in a way that shows the parts the man would not have liked to reveal about himself.

This is a very good translation of this book. And the narration is excellent. Recommend to those who enjoy books from the early era of detective fiction.

39 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • analyzethis
  • 08-12-2016

I know this is a classic, but I just don't get it

Millions love Inspector Maigret, so when I was browsing for something to listen to, I thought: this must be a sure bet. Instead, I ended up with possibly the most boring book I have encountered in years. The plot was completely uninteresting, involving characters I could not care about. Most of the book involved descriptions of Maigret getting wet: by being out in the rain, or walking in shallow water on a beach - uncomfortable for him no doubt, but not really that interesting for me. I did listen to the end but only because: I was on a trip and downloading a new book was difficult, and the narrator was terrific. Perfect voice for the genre and he really worked hard, though ultimately in vain, to make the story interesting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Marco Antonio Lara
  • 16-10-2015

How Georges wrote his stories

Georges had a very structured approach in writing his stories, adhering to a formula in writing much of his work. Living on a houseboat, he might research his story over a long, if fragmented duration. When ready to start the story, he might type the tale sitting outside (presumably weather allowing) on his boat. The writing of the novel would occur over a roughly two week period, typing each morning three hours from 7 to 10 o'clock. Each day, the work would thus advance maybe a chapter a day, with the conclusion and plot structure not determined until actual composition.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Ann
  • 07-10-2016

Great Mystery!

Great mystery! Truly inspired narration plus a great story makes this a fantastic listen! Can't wait to download the next in series!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Neal
  • 04-10-2015

Real crime here is the English accent narration

Has Pietr the Latvian turned you off from other books in this genre?

No this genre, but certainly this Audible series as they are all narrated in an English accent

What didn’t you like about Gareth Armstrong’s performance?

Mr Armstrong is a wonderful narrator. But Audible should have chosen someone with a French accent to narrate this French story. This was like listening to Sherlock Holmes with a Spanish accent.

Any additional comments?

Why in the world would Audible take a classic French detective series and have it narrated with an English accent? So much of the atmosphere and locality is completely missed when the characters of a French detective novel speak with English accents (except, oddly enough, the Latvian).

40 of 68 people found this review helpful

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  • Cabby Flynn
  • 09-07-2018

A very disappointing supposed classic

This is the 3rd Simenon story I've read or listened to, hoping to see why he is so highly rated as an author of detective fiction. All have been disappointing, but this takes the cake. A contrived and mostly incomprehensible plot, with unbelievable key elements. The reader didn't help. Cannot recommend.

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  • Mike Schmaljohn
  • 01-05-2018

ok

I liked it, but it was just ok, nothing new, exciting, unusual. Just ok, nothing more.

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  • The Wiz
  • 06-01-2018

Excellent performance

The story moves right along and you feel like you are right there in the action. Top quality performance.

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  • Diane Downs
  • 12-05-2017

Didn't like it

didn't like it. painful to finish. boring. predic , borning, predictable, and I just didn't like it..

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  • Viv
  • 28-01-2014

Easy Reading of a classic cop

Would you listen to Pietr the Latvian again? Why?

I am not likely to listen to this story again, though it was enjoyable enough first time around. Story was a bit thin and didn't engage me very much - but good enough as background to doing the gardening or going to sleep.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

All tied up nicely at the end, though no great surprise, if a bit contorted.

Have you listened to any of Gareth Armstrong’s other performances? How does this one compare?

First time I have heard Gareth, but an enjoyable reader within plenty of 'character'.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlie T.
  • 22-12-2013

Greatr performance, flawed story

Excellent entertainment provided you gloss over some infelicities in the story itself. The reading is spot on.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • ReadingWild
  • 10-11-2013

At last the book not the play.

What made the experience of listening to Pietr the Latvian the most enjoyable?

Great to see the books out and translated well - not the BBC plays which are good but not good enough - well paced and full of character and texture. Old school investigation, gritty Gaelic noir!

What did you like best about this story?

Crime mystery at its intricate best.

Have you listened to any of Gareth Armstrong’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Really well read - the many voices are all distinct and played with conviction

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

AT LAST A DECENT FILM

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Ginger
  • 15-09-2015

So so

Not the best Maigret story. The character of the detective shines through. The descriptions are good but the plot is thin.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Sodit Amazon Customer
  • 04-06-2015

Brilliant as always

Excellent story. Excellent narrator very good characterisation thoroughly good read as it were. two words

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim and Mary
  • 21-04-2017

Brilliant! Great writing and great narration!

Lovers of the TV series should read these. Simenon is a brilliant writer, or is it partly the new translation? Armstrong is a superb narrator and executes each character well. If this is the first one, what will the rest be like?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anfisa
  • 11-02-2017

Great start to a series

I am well familiar with both Christie's and Doyle's creations, but I've only ever seen the odd Maigret TV film, and haven't actually read the books. What a treat I'm in for if the rest of the books in the serie are written in the same style!

Fans of any longstanding procedural, whether in books or on screen, will know that while a particular story may leave you cold, if you like the style of the author and the main character, they will carry you through. The central mystery of this book was pretty standard detective fare, but Simenon's writing is wonderful. Before reading the book, I have just finished "The spy who came in from the cold" and so I was able to compare two male authors writing in a vaguely similar field. I was rather disappointed with Carré as it felt that he shoehorned his characters into whatever philosophical argument he wanted to pursue and nothing in his book felt completely believable. Reading Simenon straight after was a joy, as he brings every single character, street and room to life. His style is very descriptive, but never florid and I really felt immersed in the backstreets of prewar Paris.

Gareth Armstrong is a great narrator and he gives just enough individuality to every character without chewing the scenery or adopting silly accents which would have been easy to do given the multicultural cast of the story.

I look forward to the rest of the series!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Annie
  • 08-08-2014

I couldn't stop listening!

What did you like most about Pietr the Latvian?

I love these tales & this didn't disappoint.

Any additional comments?

This was an excellent listen, an easy and undemanding listen & the characters were already known to me. In spite of that or maybe because of it, it made me listen. Gareth Armstrong will definitely see me listening to more of his reads. Inspector Maigret and the other characters here, but especially him, come to life.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Ms Lixie
  • 22-07-2014

Loved the TV series, now loving the audio books

I was almost put off by other reviews saying these translations made Maigret less likable but I am glad I took a chance on what is a relatively short audio book in exchange for one of my precious credits. I have listened to this twice and really love the story and the narrator. He does a great job with accents, men's voices and women's. Maigret is a touch 'harder' than the TV series from the 80s but not so much that this couldn't be Michael Gambon still. The story is interesting and has Maigret travelling around, talking to different ranks and interacting with Madame Maigret. I would definitely recommend this.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Patricia
  • 11-12-2013

A memory of times past

I remember watching Maigret as a child on the television and I can remember the signature tune and opening titles vividly but I don't think I was aware that it was about drugs and violence. I enjoyed listening to this classic but I think it illustrates how far crime fiction has come. I will probably purchase the next in the series for nostalgic reasons.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful