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Les caves du Majestic

December, 1939. Nieul-sur-Mer (Charente-Maritime)

Gallimard, 1942
Tout Simenon (PDLC '91-'92): Tome 23, pp. 311-402 (92pp).

Maigret and the Hotel Majestic (1977) Caroline Hillier


A guest at the Hotel Majestic has been strangled — Mimi Clark, the wife of an American industrialist from Detroit, Oswald Clark. Her body is found early in the morning, in a locker in the kitchen cloakroom, by the breakfast cook, Prosper Donge. M spends the day in the kitchen, but doesn't question Donge until he is on his way home to Saint-Cloud by bicycle, when M, also on a bicycle, rides back with him to his home, where his girlfriend Charlotte is waiting. Oswald Clark, who said he'd gone to Rome on business, had in fact spent the night in Paris with Ellen Darroman, his maid, and they'd stayed at a different hotel. M learns that Mimi Clark had been a hostess in Cannes, in a club called La Belle Étoile, where Charlotte had worked as well. And Donge, who'd worked at the Miramar there, had been in love with her.
M goes to Cannes to see Gigi, a third dancer at the club, where he learns that Mimi had had Donge's son, but told her husband it was his. But even before he returns he learns that Donge has been arrested. There'd been a second murder, Justin Colleboeuf, the night concierge, also found strangled in the kitchen cloakroom. An anonymous letter, apparently from Charlotte, has revealed Donge's connection with Mimi. M is convinced of his innocence, and Clark himself is not a suspect. But a visit from an assistant bank manager who'd happened to see Donge's name in the newspaper, reveals that Donge had savings of almost 300,000 francs, all accumulated in the last three years, from deposits made from a bank in Detroit. M sees the light, and visits M. Atoum, who'd run the bank the bookkeeper at the Majestic, Jean Ramuel, had worked at before the Majestic, and the loose ends are tied together.
Ramuel, who'd spent the night of the murder at the Majestic, was a forger. He'd learned of Donge's connection with Mimi Clark, forged blackmail letters to her, and deposited her checks into an account he'd set up in Donge's name. When Donge had learned she was at the Majestic, he'd set up an appointment, as he was eager to meet his son. But he'd had a flat tire, and come late. Ramuel, spotting her in the kitchen and fearing her encounter with Donge, had killed her, knowing Donge would be blamed. He'd killed the night concierge, as he'd seen him, and sent the anonymous letter he'd forged from Charlotte. He'd been planning his iminent escape to Brussels with the money when M had caught him out.

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