In my write-up on Maigret’s Mistake I referred to Dr. Gouin as being “another of Simenon’s spoiled man-babies, waited upon by codependent women.” What it put me in mind of was the similar case of “morbid codependency” I noted in The Flemish House. In both books a man becomes the ironic prize of women competing to show how much they will sacrifice to make him happy. In Dr. Gouin’s case it’s his wife and his personal assistant. In The Flemish House it’s the suspect’s sisters and mother. In this case the killer’s mother and wife have a duel over who will possess him most completely. In order for evil to triumph in the world it’s not only necessary that good men do nothing, but evil must be actively enabled.
Marcel Monsin is a rarity in these books in being a serial killer, and I thought Simenon did a reasonable job trying to explain what drives him. But despite his capture becoming, once again, a “personal challenge” to Maigret, Monsin isn’t the key to the story. That role belongs to the women, who are set up like hot and cold running furies. “In my entire career no case has disturbed me so much,” Maigret sadly concludes. And while there are good reasons for this, I wonder if one that’s not expressed is how much he can relate to these man-baby figures. Isn’t the Detective Chief Inspector a bit of one himself? Childless, and mothered by Madame Maigret at every turn? In my notes on Maigret and the Tall Woman I observed his “instinctive loathing of men who are excessively mothered” and wondered “if there was some psychological projection going on here, as Maigret himself is waited on hand foot by his wife.” (As a quick addendum, at the beginning of Maigret Enjoys Himself Maigret is even conscious of how much Madame Maigret resembles his mother as she goes about her daily routines.)
This may also shed some light on a minor moment that caught my attention here. Is Maigret surprised at the Monsins having separate bedrooms? Madame Monsin can’t understand why, because isn’t this “like many married couples?” Mentally, Maigret concedes the point: “It was after all almost standard, in a certain social milieu. It didn’t necessarily mean anything.” Not necessarily anything, but perhaps something.