'No apartment would have looked cheerful in that weather. It was one of those bleak days when you wonder what you're on earth for in the first place and why you're going to so much trouble to stay here.'
I'm not sure what's happening to me as a reader. Or even as a person. I think I'm developing stronger positions and opinions on a range of subjects and I'm becoming more easily offended.
Take Maigret at Picratt's. It's a fine read in so many ways. In fact, I'd go further and say that it contains many of my favourite Maigret settings and behaviours.
He's intrigued by a case when a young dancer from a local strip-joint, the kind of place frequented by tourists looking for the 'real Paris' or men looking for thrills, claims she's heard that a duchess is about to be murdered. When the police turn her away because the story has changed, the dancer leaves and becomes the victim of a killer.
Said dancer was the queen of them all. She's erotic and sensual and had powers in the bedroom that shocked even her most experienced partners. She also happened to have been the apple of Detective Lapointe's eye and he was totally besotted.
And then the body of a duchess turns up. A drug-addled old lady, her flat is filthy and life full of a mysterious history.
Maigret gets to hang around at the club to carry out his investigation. He loves the people and the buzz of the place and drinks more than he usually might while on a case. He also frequents the local bars and observes the world at night time.
Almost all of that is fantastic.
And then a small-time addict, supplier to the duchess, turns up. That's when I struggled.
Here's an example of Maigret's perspective:
'Deep down, like all fairies, he was proud of it, and an involuntary smile formed on his unnaturally red lips. Maybe getting told off by real men turned him on.'
From here, the resentment and hate for the man and all gay men simply continues.
I know that I've read many a book written a long time ago and been able to overlook such descriptions. Issues regarding race, gender and sexuality come up fairly frequently, but I've generally been able to forgive the author if there was no real malice involved. I'm also more than happy for characters to have offensive attitudes and opinions - I've created many a scumbag myself. The problem for me was that this was Maigret. I've overlooked many a thought or an action in the past, putting it down to the attitudes of the time. It was informative in some way, or wasn't anything to get worked up about.
This time was different. Maigret's views spoiled the remainder of the book and left me feeling pretty negative about the whole thing.
I've been reading Simenon's work for over thirty years, almost always with enthusiasm and admiration. I hope that Picratt's doesn't mean that pleasure is to loose it's warmth.
This is possibly a great book. Reviews score highly. Take out this rotten core and I'd probably agree with them.