He’s not really Maigret’s “friend.” Though it’s interesting that everyone calls him that, assuming that he is. In fact, as Maigret constantly has to correct them, Léon Florentin was only a classmate, and one he looks on now with a mix of pity and resentment.
Given that weak personal connection, I was left a bit confused as to why Florentin would come to Maigret in the first place to get him to investigate a murder that he had some involvement in. This was much the way Maigret’s Pickpocket kicked off too, and I didn’t really understand it there either. Just laziness on Simenon’s part? I have to ask given the way the novel starts, with Maigret working at his desk with the window of his office open. He notices a fly buzzing about before “all of a sudden, as if it had had enough, it took flight and passed through the open window before losing itself in the warm air outside.” Maigret returns to annotating his reports when Florentin’s visit is announced and we’re told that he had “forgotten the fly, which, perhaps offended, must have flown out the window.” Well of course it flew out the window! We were just told so on the previous page! That’s lazy.
I’ve remarked before (in my notes on Maigret’s Patience) how often the character of the concierge in these novels is presented as a negative presence, though never an out-and-out villain. That’s the case again here, with a really ugly concierge who turns out to be the key that reveals the killer. She’s obese and scheming and resentful, possessed only of a sense of low cunning that Maigret has to work around in order to get at the truth. Were there any nice concierges in Paris or were they all this bad?
Maigret finds the whole thing so exasperating he breaks a pipe stem in his teeth at one point. This made me wonder how common an occurrence this is. Are pipe stems easily broken? I’d ask somebody, but I don’t know anyone who smokes a pipe. They seem to be very much a niche these days.
Not a great Maigret story, but it has some dramatic interest. Especially the way Maigret gathers all the deceased’s clients together so he can observe them interact. That was a nice bit of Poirot business. Though at one point Maigret’s philosophy on crimes of passion is expressed, and I think it’s a bit different than that held by Poirot:
He nearly told them that there are no such things as crimes of passion. And yet that was more or less what he believed. He had learned in the course of his career that the spurned lover or the abandoned wife will kill less out of love than out of a wounded pride.
Of course, wounded pride might lead to a crime of passion. It depends how sticky we’re going to be with definitions. Love and pride live next door to each other anyway.