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M goes to Givet, on the Meuse, the Belgian border, at the request of Anna Peeters, who has come to Paris with a letter of reference from Mme M's cousin in Nancy. The Peeters have a shop, the Épicerie Peeters, catering especially to the Belgian bargees, and besides Anna there is a son, Joseph Peeters, a law student, and a daughter, Maria Peeters, a teacher in the Ursuline school. Joseph is said to have fathered a son, Jojo, with Germaine Piedboeuf, although he's always been expected to marry his cousin, Marguerite Van de Weert. Now Germaine has disappeared, last seen going to the Peeters to get her monthly allowance for the boy, and the Peeters are suspected of having done away with her. But there's no body. The inspector from Nancy, Machère, also believes the Peeters guilty.
Germaine has a brother, Gérard Piedboeuf, and he'd had a brief affair with Anna, M learns. Then there's a bargeman, Gustave Cassin, who first claims to have seen someone throwing a body into the Meuse, then seems to deny it. M visits his barge, and finds Germaine's coat and a hammer. Then her body is found 50 miles downstream she'd been killed by hammer blows to the head. Finally Cassin disappears, leaving a note of a false suicide, and he is determined the killer. But M, with no official capacity in the case, confronts Anna. As he had figured out, she'd killed Germaine, in order to protect her brother's happiness - that is, so that he could marry Marguerite. She enlisted the aid of Joseph and hidden the body, finally throwing it in the river. Gérard had paid Cassin, who said he had evidence, but then Cassin went to Anna, got more money, and disappeared. Officially, Cassin was assumed guilty.
Maigret of the Month: February, 2005
Maigret's Journeys in France