I guess Maigret didn’t retire, as he’s back as Paris’s celebrity police investigator here. Even to the point where a young man has come all the way from Philadelphia just to learn about his “method.” Good luck with that. “How can I explain it to you?” Maigret asks. “I feel it.” But then how can you explain anything to a man who won’t wear a hat, even in the rain? Americans!
Though one of the longer Maigret mysteries I still felt shortchanged. I thought there was so much more to say about what was going on in that Neapolitan ice cream apartment building. As it stands, it’s pretty clear who the good guys and the bad guys are, though the focus on a smaller cast of characters and a single setting gives you more to sink your teeth into. The idea of love changing to avarice, “one passion chases out another,” made me think of Trina in Frank Norris’s McTeague. I love these pocket case studies in abnormal psychology.
As I say, I would have been happy with a few hundred pages going deeper into all this. But Simenon seems to have had a kind of attention-deficit problem when it came to these books. He’ll set the hook with a delightful opening, as he does here with an evocation of the foggy Paris streets to kick things off, or again at the beginning of Chapter 8:
It was still raining in the morning, a soft, dismal rain with the resignation of widowhood. You didn’t see it falling; you didn’t feel it, yet it covered everything with a cold film, and the surface of the Seine was pitted with thousands of little circles. At nine, you still felt as if you were off to catch an early train, for day was reluctant to dawn, and the gas lamps were still lit.
But he never continues in this vein for more than a paragraph or two. He’s impatient to get on with the story. Why the rush?