A game of connect-the-dots so playfully rendered I have to wonder if Simenon was just having a bit of fun with these stories now. How far was his tongue in his cheek when he served up this description of the chief inspector: “In the course of his thirty years in the job, Maigret has seen all kinds of everything. He has sniffed the air and smelled the odour of human passions, vices, crimes and manias, the entire ferment of massed humanity.”
All the fun and games come to a dark end indeed though, as this is the most bitterly ironic of all these novels thus far. Madame Le Cloagulen is a figure so vicious the other characters, including Maigret himself, are shocked that she can even exist. She is unnatural, a harpy, someone who leaves Maigret at a loss for words. He can only expostulate “What a bitch . . .” And yet even though he “has it in for her” his plans to nail her for something other than walling her dead husband up fail in the face (and laughter) of an insouciant heiress. Maigret’s “amazing intuition, his frightening ability to put himself in the shoes of other people” isn’t up to the task of dealing with either woman. Perhaps because they are women? I don’t think that’s quite right. But they are modern women, and that’s something he doesn’t seem capable or willing to understand.