giovedì 18 agosto 2016

SIMENON SIMENON. THE LITTLE DOCTOR AT ARSENIC HALL

The doctor practices medicine while the detective investigates murder. 

SIMENON SIMENON. LE PETIT DOCTEUR AU CHATEAU DE L’ARSENIC 
Le docteur pratique la médecine pendant que le détective enquête sur des meurtres
SIMENON SIMENON, IL PICCOLO DOTTORE AL CASTELLO DELL'ARSENICO
Il dottore si dedica alla medicina mentre il detective indaga su degli omicidi


The twelfth case in The Little Doctor collection, Arsenic Hall (Le Chateau de l’arsenic) breaks the mold of its predecessors in four ways: although its opening is fast-moving, it soon slows to a plodding investigation with little action. Dollent does more ‘doctoring’ in his ‘detecting” than seen in the past. Simenon plays the sex up, harking back to what characterized many of his early romans populaires. Finally, Dollent does not drink at all while investigating as one usually sees. 
1) When the exhumation of three bodies laced with arsenic draws Dollent to an isolated country chateau, a “multitude of dogs” attack the gate. His counterattack is aggressive, too, for as soon as he meets their owner, he strikes out: “I am here… to find out if you poisoned your aunt…. your wife… and your niece.” His unflinching host responds with “perfect courtesy” to the “crude” question: “You are quite right in speaking frankly... May I offer you something to drink and “unhesitatingly” adds the reassurance that “I will drink before you do.” Dollent gradually ferrets out that the three poisoned women, who had ostensibly died “of heart problems” during the preceding eight years, could have been victims of any one of the four surviving chateau residents: Monsieur Mordaut, his son Hector, his housekeeper Ernestine, or his maid Rose. Dollent advances to worrying that any or all four may become unwitting victims. Despite life insurance covering all the dead women with Mordaut as their beneficiary, Dollent projects he is a most unlikely suspect. 
2) The doctor proceeds to methodically examine the four suspects in sequenceIn assessing them psychologicallyDollent draws on tips about characteristics and behaviors of poisoners he gleaned from Chief Inspector Lucas from the Maigret era, at last more complimentary than competitive: “A man such as you, with a little luck, might….” Dollent’s thoroughgoing physical examinations are important in this case. His doctor/detective goal is to search for findings consistent with low-grade chronic arsenic poisoning. Two are clean as whistles, one is ominously afflicted, and one dies of acute arsenic poisoning―right under his nose. 
3) Simenon’s familiar technique of “conveying the act of lovemaking without writing it” sprinkled with elements of voyeurism and exhibitionism is prominent here. Attracted from the get-go, the doctor examines the two womenthoroughly inspecting and palpating their naked bodies. “Wanting to see her stripped,” he first examines the older Ernestine. “Finding her figure still shapely, he spends an incredible “good quarter of an hour” just listening to her chest! He goes next to examine the younger Rose, who is “even more seductive with her “appealing feminine curves. Already disrobing and exposing “a majestic bosom” of “white, abundant flesh, she taunts: “Is it my turn? Must I undress too?” The doctor’s exam, although shorter, is pruriently more active: “Bend forward” and “Breathe” and “Lie back. 
4) Also different this time is the fact that Dollent does not drink any alcohol during this dry―in terms of alcohol consumption―story until he solves the crime. Only then does he serves himself white wine, glass after glass, to be sure. 

David P Simmons

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