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Two years into his retirement at Meung-sur-Loire, M has yet to be tempted to take on a case. But 82-year-old Bernadette Amorelle, the widow of Amorelle of Amorelle and Campois, the major gravel and barge company on the Seine, shows up at his door and virtually orders him to Orsennes, where her 18-year-old granddaughter, Monita Malik, has been found dead in the Seine. M arrives and finds an old acquaintance from his days at lycée in Moulins, Ernest Malik, who they'd called "The Tax Collector" after his father's occupation, the sort of man M instinctively disliked. It is made clear that M's presence in Orsenne is unwelcome, but M is intrigued by the apparent disappearance of Malik's younger son, Georges-Henry Malik.
M returns to Paris to investigate further and to enlist the services of Mimile, an old circus hand, with whose help he rescues the boy from the cellar his father has imprisoned him in. The mystery is finally unraveled when Bernadette shoots and kills her son-in-law Ernest, and M returns to hear her story. Malik had been a gambler, and enticed Désiré Campois' son, Roger Campois, into gambling way over his head, until he commited suicide, thus freeing Amorelle's daughter from her engagement, and giving Ernest room to marry into the family. He was more intrigued by the younger daughter, Aimée Amorelle, who bore his child, Monita, but not before he had brought his younger brother, Charles Malik, in to marry Aimée, eventually forcing Old Campois from power, and conquering all but Bernadette. The daughter, Monita, had learned the secret, and shared it with Georges-Henry...
Maigret of the Month: February, 2006