Friday, December 07, 2007

Lunchtime read: The Madman of Bergerac

Although he is bed bound Maigret manages to conjure up visions of the town and the inside of the main inhabitants rooms using his imagination, maps and the descriptions from his wife.

He keeps prodding away at the doctor in particular and annoys almost everyone but finally his old police colleague starts to see that there is some method in his madness. The final manoeuvre is to bring up the mother-in-law of the doctor after Maigret comes to settle on him as the key to the case.

With the elderly woman in the hotel things start to happen rapidly as she starts to tell Maigret the truth about the relationship between the doctor and her daughters. The doctor arrives and then tries to escape with his lover and the climax comes with him choosing to end his life cornered on the third floor of the hotel rather than face the truth and so in the arms of his real love, his wife’s sister, they commit suicide.

Maigret has solved the crime of not only the madman of Bergerac, who turns out to be the doctor’s father, but also why he was on the train in the first place. The fact he manages to do so all from his bed in the hotel is a feat of his ability to read people and places. But he is assisted by his wife and in a complete difference to the modern thrillers, where most policemen are divorced or going through a marriage breakdown this was clearly written at a different time when policing was demanding but not marriage destroying.

It is a bit like Rear Window except that everything that happens is seen by Maigret in his mind rather than out of the window looking out on the main town square.

A review will follow soonish…

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