Chief Inspector Maigret and his associate Lucas have been hammering away at a suspect for over seventeen hours and the man, while asserting his innocence with conviction, has hardly turned a hair. He still sits, with his well-cut suit only a little rumpled, though minus his belt, collar and shoelaces, as is police procedure. The man’s considerable sang froide (not to mention the one glass eye behind a monocle) has unsettled the inspector and he finds himself a bit out of sorts. There is nothing for it but to head out to Three Widow’s Crossroads, the scene of the crime. He has his wife pack him a bag and he is off.
The crime itself is just as mysterious and unsettling as his main suspect. There are only three homes at the crossroads, one of them housing a garage and some gas pumps, and the neighbors aren’t at all familiar with one another. The fancy new car owned by one neighbor, an insurance salesman, is found in the garage of the Man with the Monocle, with an unknown man dead at the wheel, while that man’s battered old jalopy is in the insurance salesman’s garage.
The mood of the book starts out a little spooky and dazed, and Maigret’s fatigue makes it even harder for him to get a handle on what is going on at these creepy crossroads. Nobody and nothing is what it seems and he’s got a lot of threads to bring together before he’s got it sorted. The tone of the rest of the book is a little darker than previous ones I’ve read, with Maigret using harder interrogation tactics and even giving a couple of suspects a few good licks.