When you’re as famous a detective as J.-J. Maigret (that’s Jules-Joseph) you don’t have to go looking for trouble; it comes to your door. In this case it takes the form of a disturbed young man who drops in at his apartment and is entertained by Madame Maigret for a while but who leaves before the Detective Chief Inspector arrives, taking with him Maigret’s revolver.
I have to say, Maigret doesn’t come away from this initial bit of business that’s used to get the plot rolling looking very good. Why doesn’t he rush home when his wife calls him? Why does he stop on his way at a brasserie to have a few pastis with a colleague? Later he will apologize – to the young man! – for not getting back more quickly. Meanwhile, it is Madame Maigret who wants to apologize for not keeping the young man at the apartment, while she’s having to cook Maigret’s lunch at the same time.
I guess it’s a minor point, but like I say, it doesn’t show our hero in a good light. Or later when the couple are walking to a friend’s place for dinner and she has to tell him “Don’t walk so fast,” because “He always walked too quickly for her.” Always? How long have they been married? Wouldn’t he know this by now and slow his pace when out with his wife?
All of this is by the way, but it is something I tripped over in the opening pages. Once the story gets going here it has Maigret pursuing the young man, and his revolver, to London, where Maigret meets up with cross-Channel colleague Inspector Pyke of Scotland Yard, who we remember from My Friend Maigret. But as usual any attempt at establishing a Maigret chronology is frustrated by the offhand remark that “they had not seen each other for some time.” How long a time? Don’t know.
In my notes on Maigret and the Old Lady I speculated on whether or not Maigret could be considered an alcoholic. That’s a thought I had again here, especially when he’s stuck staking out the lobby of the Savoy Hotel, with the bar closed. Then when the bar opens he can’t get to it! This, this is torture:
His throat was swollen with thirst and from where he stood he could see the bar full of customers, the pale martinis, which from a distance looked so cool in their clouded glasses, and the whiskies that the men standing at the bar were holding in their hands.
You can bet this is a thirst that water isn’t going to relieve. And in fact when he later has dinner with the young man he’s been hunting and the young man only orders water Maigret looks down on him as a child. Grown-ups order a bottle with their meals, and if the young man doesn’t want any then that just means more for Maigret.
A quick read with a silly plot that wraps up without much of a conclusion. Alas, as Maigret has to concede, he is not God the Father but only head of the Crime Squad. A mere mortal who needs to stop off on his way home for a few drinks and who gets parched standing in a hotel lobby.