I saw the title for this one and thought it was going to involve Maigret finding a loose noggin floating in the Seine. But the loss of a man’s head is only prospective, as it’s still attached to a man on death row for a crime that Maigret is convinced he is innocent of. So convinced that he arranges to have the man “escape” from prison in the hope that this will somehow lead him to the real killer. The tabloid press finds such an operation “probably unique in the annals of crime.”
Yes, but not in the annals of Hollywood crime movies, which is very much what this novel plays like. There’s a lot of action and chasing people around. The plot is a stretch, even without the escape from prison, but in the character of the bitter Czech Radek we get one of the best villains of the series. Twenty years earlier, Maigret speculates, he might have been a militant bomb-thrower, but that has gone out of fashion. Which means what? That there are no more causes, political or philosophical, worth throwing bombs for. Radek doesn’t even rise to the level of a Raskolnikov. Jealous of love, and of life, all he has left is his hate. Does Maigret understand him? I don’t think he’s able to relate.