lunedì 9 maggio 2016

SIMENON SIMENON. A PHOTO FINISH FOR OUR LITTLE DOCTOR/DETECTIVE



Doctor Dollent and Inspector Lucas race to solve a murder case in Paris.

SIMENON SIMENON. UNE PHOTO-FINISH POUR NOTRE PETIT DOCTEUR/DETECTIVE
Le docteur Dollent et l'inspecteur Lucas en compétition pour résoudre une affaire de meurtre à Paris. 
SIMENON SIMENON. UN FOTOFINISH PER I NOSTRO PICCOLO DOTTORE/DETECTIVE
Il dottor Dollent e l'ispettore Lucas in competizione per risolvere un caso di omicidio a Parigi


The 7th story in The Little Doctor collection, The Dutchman’s Luck, is a lark. Choosing to spend his vacation studying police methodology, young Dollent starts his lessons with “the humility of a schoolboy in front of his teacher” because his older mentor is none other than Chief Inspector Lucas at the quai d’Orfèvres in Paris.

Yes, Lucas did take over for Maigret (although the retired boss was not happy imagining a former associate sitting in his office and smoking one of his pipes), which adds an interesting twist to comparing Jean Dollent with Jules Maigret. We get to see our budding amateur working side by side with a seasoned pro even if the instructor-student relationship becomes an intense joust to outdo one another. Much like a cat playing with a mouse, a smiling, winking Lucas bats a frowning, squirming Dollent around.
Big shot Kees Van der Donck picks up lowly Lydia Nielsen, both recent arrivals from Belgium. The morning after their one-night stand in a hotel, he comes back for his missing wallet and finds her dead, head smashed in, fully dressed, on the unmade bed. According to Lucas, her handbag contained only some small change and her passport.
Granted full freedom to investigate but determined not to imitate the police, Dollent goes to work until Lucas, who could not have known his whereabouts, calls him back to the office. Mocking Dollent’s deductive abilities, Lucas feeds him a belated clue: Lydia’s handbag also held a corner torn from a menu with a number scribbled on its back.
A Belgian dish listed on the front sends Dollent cockily sneaking off to Brussels, only to find Lucas has already asked a Belgian police pal to help him when he arrives.
Despite resenting the way his condescending rival has treated him like a child, the Little Doctor pumps the policeman and learns the number he is tracking down identifies a rented room from which Van der Donck had recently sent a large trunk to Paris.
Smugly concluding he has solved the case, Dollent returns to Paris, where to his dismay Lucas greets him at the train station. Echoing Maigret in claiming he has no method, teasing Lucas informs grumpy Dollent that Lydia’s enraged boyfriend has shot Van der Donck, forcing him into a hospital. Both pretend they are going off to bed, Dollent heads for the hospital, but Lucas beats him there. Together, they discover the wounded patient has fled his sick bed.
Our detective’s vanity now drives him to risk all to come out on top. Despite accusations of forgery, theft, and murder leading to his arrest, jailing, and interrogation, complete with beer and ham sandwiches à la Maigret, Dollent triumphs. Happily, the amateur and pro join the same mutual admiration society.

David P Simmons

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