Maigret is still a big guy. A “good 100 kilos.” The kind of weight that really makes him feel the heat. But he can also turn his size on for effect, swelling to fill a room (“He was enormous . . .”) when he needs to intimidate a witness. He does this a lot.
A “dull, grey atmosphere” of middle-class mediocrity surrounds the case. At the end of the novel Maigret will present himself in such a way that “If you had seen his face, you would probably have described the dominant impression as boredom.” But he may be acting a bit at that point.
This is a novel of appearances, among people who think that appearances are all there are. The beastly bourgeoisie: Maigret finds them both respectable and repulsive (an attitude readers will get used to). “Funny sort of people,” he concludes. He looks on the young woman preparing to marry the murdered man’s son “with feelings verging on admiration. But a particular kind of admiration, with more than a touch of revulsion in it.” She’s entering marriage like it’s some kind of business enterprise! Meanwhile, “he was both attracted and repelled by the complex physiognomy of his murder victim.” He’s better off dead, I think we’re meant to feel, and finally done with being part of such a miserable family, where even the presence of happiness and love has to be guessed at. Certainly Maigret is relieved not to have anything more to do with them.
Another story of a double life. The respectable man and the criminal. Inside every human being there’s a crook and a wrong-doer. I was reminded of a true crime book I read years ago called The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère. Perhaps the guy in that book was reading a lot of Simenon and took it too much to heart. Or perhaps this is a French thing.