“Rene looked more hatchet-faced than usual.”
This is my favorite Maigret yet. Our esteemed Inspector is only a whisper in the first ninety-some pages of this book: is he the “Broad-shouldered man”? No matter, there’s a cracking good mystery going on here. The setting is Liege, Simenon’s birthplace, and his intimate knowledge of the town and it’s underbelly really gives depth and quite a bit of humor to this story.
Jean and Rene are a couple of young men out on the town. Jean works in an office and comes from a respectable family. Rene is the spoiled son of a rich manufacturer. To support their nightlife, they have taken to thievery: Rene steals from his uncle, a successful chocolatier, and uses his father’s car when he is away on business. Jean has “borrowed” from the petty cash box that he keeps track of at work. One night, as they are drinking in one of their haunts, the Gai Moulin, they hatch a plan to steal the cash when the bar closes. They hide in a stairwell until everyone has left. Well, not everyone. In the dark they stumble upon a dead body and frightened out of their wits, they bolt.
This sets off a curious sequence of events,the most notable being Maigret’s late and unusual entrance. I loved the playfulness that Maigret exhibits here, explaining his presence on the scene and taking matters into his own hands. here’s even a running gag about the precinct ordering pipes (one chapter is titled “An Evening With the Pipe Smokers”) that had me chuckling. The lead detective of Liege’s Surete is partly in awe of Maigret’s antics and partly put off by the “big man from Paris”. It’s pretty amazing what he gets away with, but hey, it’s Maigret. He can do whatever the eff he wants, in my book. T