lunedì 14 marzo 2016


The third story in which Dollent looks more and more like Maigret

La troisième nouvelle dans laquelle Dollent ressemble de plus en plus à Maigret
Il terzo racconto nel quale Dollent somiglia sempre più a Maigret
This time, Simenon has his little doctor abandon his patients and his cocky detective drive many miles away to fuel his investigative passion. Two men and a woman in a car had forced the proprietor of a closed garage to sell them gas in the middle of the night. As they drove off, the woman screamed for help. We learn their vehicle had been ‘borrowed’ and ‘returned’ without its owner’s knowledge. Three weeks later, the mysterious driver’s body turns up, casually lying out in the open on a riverbank, a discovery that sends Dollent racing off to the crime scene. Brazenly pretending to be a press photographer seeking news and, later on, the medical examiner on the case, he inveigles his way deep into the investigation, gathering clues as he goes. The dead man’s own gun is the murder weapon. The fancy car he drives as a traveling salesman is missing. Deducing the quickest way to get rid of an unwanted large object, Dollent comes up with the missing car.
Lo and behold, a second corpse appears, an unknown strangled man carefully buried under stones on the same riverbank. Dollent reasons the third person in the mysterious car, the woman who screamed, is still alive. Since he has observed the first victim’s much younger wife and even younger sister-in-law living and clashing together under the same roof (à la Simenon), Dollent projects one must be the assassin, but which one? Each offers a suspicious portrait of the salesman up to the point he suddenly rushed away on a business call the night he was killed. Learning the purported customer had subsequently mailed two letters to the salesman questioning why he never arrived, the crafty doctor/detective sends the same message to each woman at the house in separate pink and green envelopes. After the next morning’s mail delivery, Dollent smugly invites the police to witness the showdown he has orchestrated. Yes, his creative double ploy exposes the killer, but as he outlines his formulation of the why and how and who, a crucial single mistake crushes his vanity. Still, we sense our hero will recover to fight again.
Simenon here shows us how, in a similar way to Maigret’s wife Louise, Dollent’s housekeeper Anna can predict his behavior. Plus we see how both men depend on their women at home for physical and moral sustenance. Plus we again see Maigret-like consumption of alcohol: Dollent celebrates one day’s good work with four Pernods and toasts his coming triumph with two calvados early the next morning. Plus Simenon reveals that, Dollent is not infallible. He acknowledges his errors, but we expect him, like Maigret, to become even more dogged and determined in his work. There is, however, one prominent difference: Maigret is confident and Dollent is cocky. Stay tuned.
David P Simmons

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