I’ve been reading all these books in the new translations put out by Penguin. In French, this one was Les trois morts de Bergerac. This does not translate as The Madman of Bergerac. I’m not sure if the translation is an improvement, but I guess it’s a catchier title.
We begin with Maigret in a train carriage, not being able to get to sleep. It’s a fitting opening, as he’s soon shot and then goes into a state of delirium. This sets a dream-like tone for what follows in the town of Bergerac, and indeed in a later chapter we’ll be treated to a weird dream sequence where Maigret imagines himself a beached seal or whale. It’s odd how dreams in novels are always so interesting, when there are few things as off-putting in real life as having to listen to someone tell us about one of their dreams.
An interesting little book, where the crime that gets the ball rolling doesn’t have much to do with what Simenon is really interested in, which is once again peeling the lid off of respectable bourgeois life and looking at the nastiness underneath. Our killer, in addition to being yet another fellow living a double life, is that worst of all people: the career man. And he’s willing to erase any obstacles in his way. But how much of this can we hold against him? What most of us would consider normal aspirations, not criminal or even excessive, often lead to someone’s ruin in Maigret’s world.