Maigret: A Crime in Holland

On the canals again, only this time in northern Holland. Why Maigret has been sent to Holland isn’t clear to me. A French national is being held as a suspect in a murder, but what of it? It seems a merely local matter that even the locals aren’t interested in figuring out. Meanwhile, Maigret doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t much like Holland or the Dutch. In fact you could go even further: he seems to despise the place and the people that he meets. Immediately upon wrapping things up he clearly can’t get out of there fast enough (“And that’s all . . . What time is the next train for France?”).

I wonder what his problem is. He finds the citizens pinched and repressed? Hypocrites? The small port town of Delfzijl is repeatedly described as being like a toy town full of doll houses. It is a façade, or whited sepulchre: “one could see the smug residences of the local bourgeoisie, freshly painted, with their sparkling panes, immaculate net curtains and pot plants in every window. Beyond those windows, impenetrable shadows.”

Well, we could say much the same for most English country villages in the golden age of crime writing. Into this world of stolid middle-class respectability the disruptive force of a homegrown pair of luscious eighteen-year-old breasts has blossomed. Which is “reducing events,” as Maigret does, “to their crudest common denominator.” In only a couple of years the owner of these breasts will have “put on weight” (Simenon need say no more) and be scarcely recognizable, but when you’re 18 having such spectacular frontage can cause all kinds of trouble.

I don’t think it’s much of a mystery. Maigret just doesn’t like the look of some people, and they all crack pretty easily under pressure. Even under the ridiculous expedient of a group re-enactment of the crime, which seemed entirely superfluous to me. All of which left me as happy to leave Holland as he was.

Maigret index

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