Another formerly rich family fallen on hard times, residing in a grand old house that is falling apart. I get the sense that Simenon didn’t care much for old money.
The decrepit house is a fit setting though, as Maigret himself is close to retirement and feeling out of step with modern life. The drink that will see him through the investigation is a hot toddy. He begins his day by thinking that Paris in the rain resembles a black-and-white silent film, and then the crime scene strikes him as being like one of the engravings that used to appear in the Sunday newspapers before photography.
The inhabitants of the house are just as archaic. There’s a housekeeper who has been serving the family for fifty years. There’s a pair of elderly parents who have entered a non-communicative twilight phase. And there is the next generation, one of whom has just been found dead. His brother and sister-in-law are the other reluctant witnesses, their characters infected by the moribund spirit of the place.
Everything was decrepit, the house’s contents as well as its occupants. The family and the house had turned in on themselves, taking on a hostile appearance.
Putting this musty air of decline into further relief is an examining magistrate just out of college. He’s one of a “new school” of magistrate and Maigret finds him “insolently youthful” but that just seems to come from the deputy chief inspector being out of sorts. I didn’t read him as being anything but respectful.
In any event, Maigret is in a sour mood and the murder itself turns out to be something a little less than it appears. This may be the first time in the series I had the sense that Maigret was only going through the motions, not utilizing any method (he has none!) but simply withdrawing into himself, physically and mentally, until some thought comes to him or some observation becomes significant and unlocks the case. This “formed part of a technique he had unconsciously built up over the years.” It works again here, but he isn’t feeling it and I wasn’t either.