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M is sent to Antibes, on the Riviera, to investigate and "handle tactfully" the case of the murder of William Brown, an Australian who'd been with French intelligence. He discovers that Brown had lived in a run-down villa with his mistress, Gina Martini, and her mother. Once a month he'd gone off to Cannes, where he parked his car and disappeared for three days, returning drunk and disheveled with his monthly funds. M discovers that he'd stayed there in the Liberty Bar, with Fat Jaja and a young girl of the streets, Sylvie. It had been his refuge. From his son, Harry Brown, M learns that Brown had left Australia to handle a lawsuit, fell in love with the Riviera, bought a yacht and never returned. Eventually his family had cut him off, limiting him to a monthly allowance of 5,000 francs.
Working his way through the hotels of Cannes, M discovers Sylvie leaving a hotel room where she'd been with Harry Brown, and that she has 20,000 francs in her purse. He has her and Joseph Ambrosini, her "protector", a Casino waiter, arrested, then learns from Brown that the money had bought Brown's will, in which he left his estate to the four women, certain to cause complications in Australia. M returns to Liberty Bar, where Jaja, drunk and broken down, admits that she'd killed Brown when he'd taken up with Sylvie, out of jealousy. Sylvie, who M has had released from jail, swears it was never her idea, had only been the once. M returns the money to Sylvie and tells her to tell Jaja, who he's learned has not long to live, that it was all a bad dream; returns the will to Harry Brown, who promises to give substantial money to the four women, and explains to Boutigues, the Antibes detective, that William Brown had been killed by persons unknown, with the motive of robbery. He has handled the case tactfully.
Maigret of the Month: May, 2005