The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien

Georges Simenon
Translated by Linda Coverdales

1. The Crime of Inspector Maigret

2. Monsieur Van Damme

3. The Herbalist's Shop in Rue Picpus

4. The Unexpected Visitor

5. Breakdown at Luzancy

6. The Hanged Men

7. The Three Men

8. Little Klein

9. The Companions of the Apocalypse

10. Christmas Eve in Rue du Pot-au-Noir

11. The Candle End

EXTRA: Chapter 1 from
The Carter of ‘La Providence'


Georges Simenon was born on 12 February
1903 in Liège, Belgium, and died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived
for the latter part of his life. He published seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short
stories featuring Inspector Maigret.

The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
was written in the autumn of 1930 and draws on Simenon's experiences in Liège
years earlier, just before he moved to Paris. At that time, he had been involved with a
literary set, comprised of poets and young artists. A member of the group, Joseph Jean
Kleine, was found hanging from the doorway of the church of Saint-Pholien during this
period, a tragedy that left its mark on Simenon.

Penguin is publishing the entire series of
Maigret novels.



‘I love reading Simenon. He makes me think
of Chekhov'

William Faulkner

‘A truly wonderful
writer … marvellously readable – lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with
the world he creates'

Muriel Spark

‘Few writers have ever conveyed with such
a sure touch, the bleakness of human life'

A. N. Wilson

‘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


‘A novelist who entered his fictional
world as if he were part of it'

Peter Ackroyd

‘The greatest of all, the most genuine
novelist we have had in literature'

André Gide

‘Superb … The most addictive of
writers … A unique teller of tales'


‘The mysteries of the human personality
are revealed in all their disconcerting complexity'

Anita Brookner

‘A writer who, more than any other crime
novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal'

P. D. James

‘A supreme
writer … Unforgettable vividness'


‘Compelling, remorseless,

John Gray

‘Extraordinary masterpieces of the
twentieth century'

John Banville

1. The Crime of Inspector

No one noticed what was happening. No one
suspected that something serious was taking place in the small station's
waiting room, where only six passengers sat dejectedly among odours of coffee, beer
and lemonade.

It was five in the afternoon, and night
was falling. The lamps had been lighted, but through the windows one could still see
both German and Dutch railway and customs officials pacing along the platform,
stamping their feet for warmth in the grey dusk.

For Gare de Neuschanz is at the northern
tip of Holland, on the German border.

A railway station of no importance.
Neuschanz is barely a village. It isn't on any main railway line. A few trains
come through mostly in the morning and evening, carrying German workers attracted by
the high wages paid in Dutch factories.

And the same ceremony is performed every
time: the German train stops at one end of the platform; the Dutch train waits at
the other end. The train staff in orange caps and the ones wearing the dull green or
Prussian blue uniforms get together to pass the time during the hour allotted for
customs formalities.

As there are only twenty or so
passengers per train, mostly regular commuters on a first-name basis with the
customs men, such formalities do not take long.

The passengers go
and sit in the station restaurant, which resembles all those found at international
borders. The prices are marked in
. A display
case contains Dutch chocolate and German cigarettes. Gin and schnapps are

That evening, the place felt stuffy. A
woman dozed at the cash register. Steam was shooting from the coffee percolator.
Through the open kitchen door came the whistling of a wireless as a boy fiddled with
its knobs.

A cosy scene, and yet a few small things
were enough to insinuate an uneasy sense of mystery and adventure into the
atmosphere: the two different national uniforms, for example, and the posters, some
advertising German winter sports, others a trade fair in Utrecht.

Off in a corner was a man of about
thirty, his face wan and stubbled, in threadbare clothing and a soft felt hat of
some vague grey, someone who might well have drifted all around Europe.

He had arrived on the Holland train.
When he had produced a ticket for Bremen, the conductor had explained in German that
he had chosen a roundabout route without any express trains.

The man had indicated that he did not
understand. He had ordered coffee, in French, and everyone had considered him with

His eyes were feverish, too deeply sunk
in their orbits. He smoked with his cigarette stuck to his lower lip, a small detail
that spoke volumes about his weariness or indifference.

At his feet was a small suitcase of the
kind sold in any cheap store, made of cardboard treated to look like leather. It was

When his coffee
arrived, he pulled a handful of loose change from his pocket: French and Belgian
tokens, some tiny silver Dutch coins.

The waitress had to select the correct
amount herself.

People paid less attention to a
traveller sitting at the neighbouring table, a tall, heavy fellow, broad in the
shoulders. He wore a thick black overcoat with a velvet collar and a celluloid
protector cradled the knot of his necktie.

The first man kept anxiously watching
the railway employees through the glass door, as if he feared missing a train.

The second man studied him, calmly,
almost implacably, puffing on his pipe.

The nervous traveller left his seat for
two minutes to go to the toilet. Without even leaning down, simply by moving a foot,
the other man then drew the small suitcase towards him and replaced it with one
exactly like it.

Thirty minutes later, the train left.
The two men took seats in the same third-class compartment, but without speaking to
each other.

At Leer, the other passengers left the
train, which still continued along its way for the two remaining travellers.

At ten o'clock it pulled in
beneath the monumental glass roof of Bremen Station, where the arc-lamps made
everyone's face look deathly pale.

The first traveller must not have known
a word of German, because he headed several times in the wrong direction, went into
the first-class restaurant and managed only after much coming and going to find the
third-class buffet, where he did not sit down. Pointing at some
sausages in bread rolls, he gestured to explain that he
wished to take them with him and once again paid by holding out a handful of

Carrying his small suitcase, he wandered
for more than half an hour through the wide streets near the station, as if he were
looking for something.

And when the man with the velvet collar,
who was following him patiently, saw him finally turn left and walk quickly into a
poorer neighbourhood, he understood that the fellow had simply been seeking an
inexpensive hotel.

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