Dirty, drunk, unloved, and unloving, Hector Loursat has been a bitter recluse for eighteen long years—ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child to run off with another man. Once a successful lawyer, Loursat now guzzles burgundy and buries himself in books, taking little notice of his teenage daughter or the odd things going on in his vast and ever-more-dilapidated mansion. But one night the sound of a gunshot penetrates the padded walls of Loursat’s study, and he is forced to investigate. What he stumbles on is a murder.
Simenon has a knack for noir, at least for this reader. I appreciate his emotionally cerebral approach and find all his stories appealing.
Loursat is a difficult character to warm up to. I found myself wanting to slap and embrace him. Just when you sense Loursat has finally emerged from his stupor he slips back into old habits while acknowledging his error, he’s apathetic and pathetic. He’s not just an absent parent, he’s absent from life. You have hope as he somewhat cleans up his act but you soon realize it’s only temporary although far from the recesses where he first started his decline. As all of Simenon’s characters, Loursat is heavily flawed, with few redeeming qualities. Forced into a self discovery journey his missteps continue without remorse or regret. Redemption unattainable as his relationship with his daughter is negatively cemented, the damage irrevocable.
The courtroom scene was rather sterile. Simenon’s writing pulls the reader through once again creating the edge solely relying on Loursat. His affecting characterization in tandem with solid writing conveys the atmosphere perfectly.
Loursat’s years of drinking should have killed him, his road to sobriety seems a miracle given his history and short time without drink, plausibility heavily questioned. Despite my dislikes it’s still a worthwhile read, writing alone makes the effort gratifying.
Paperback, 194 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published 1940)