Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Most Obstinate Man in Paris - Georges Simenon

Theme for the Week: Queen's Quorum

Story: The Most Obstinate Man in Paris
Author: Georges Simenon
Source: The Short Cases Of Inspector Maigret
Story Number: 71
The Short Cases of Inspector Maigret happens to be the first book of short stories and novelettes about Inspector Maigret to appear in the United States in 1959, 27 years after the collection The 13 Culprits (Queen's Quorum title #85 from the year 1932) was given a cornerstone status in the Queen's Quorum. The 13 Culprits was printed for the first time in United States as recently as 2002 by Crippen and Landru if I'm not mistaken. The short cases consists of 5 novelettes, 2 of them translated by Anthony Boucher and the remaining 3 by Lawrence G. Blochman. Two of these stories are also available in Maigret's Pipe. The story that I've picked was translated by Blochman and is the case which Maigret likes to tell whenever someone asks him to talk about one of his most famous cases.
A man who enters a cafe in the Boulevard Saint Germain when the cafe is opened in the morning spends the next 16 hours in the cafe without eating anything. He just drinks coffee, keeps an eye on the cafe opposite to the one he is sitting in and no matter what the waiters in the cafe do to get rid of this man, he keeps rooted to his seat and leaves only when the cafe is closed at 11 in the night! As soon as he walks out, a shot is heard and a man goes down. The waiter who has served him so patiently for the last 16 hours believes that the man must have been hiding from some assassin  and has met his end. But when he approaches the fallen man, he finds that the dead man is somebody else and there's no sign of his obstinate customer!
Nobody is able to make headway in the case until Maigret gets involved. His investigation reveals that the dead man was a man who was sitting in a cafe the whole day opposite to the cafe occupied by the obstinate person. Strangely, his behavior(the dead man's) was exactly opposite to that of the obstinate man who has disappeared. He was garrulous, he ate a lot and drank a lot! Maigret believes that there must be a third cafe which had a similar strange visitor and he turns out to be right. In a cafe situated close to these 2 cafes and looking upon both of them, a lady spent a complete day from the time the cafe opened and left at a time when the obstinate man was supposed to have left! So, who killed whom? Who are these 3 individuals? The inspector unravels this pretty bizarre case in his  very own patient manner.

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