This review is from: The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By (Pocket Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Simenon split his work into two parts, his world famous Maigret stories and his so called hard fiction. The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By is a perfect example of why if he had never created the famous pipe smoking French flic, Simenon would still be remembered as a great writer. Much of the hard fiction concerns the clash between comformist and repressive middle class decency and the demi monde. This clash was never better explored that in this book. Kees Popinga is a bookkeeper for firm of ships chandlers in the Dutch town of Groningen, ( Many of Simenon's best stories are set in the Low Countries or Northern France, he was himself from Liege in Belgium )Kees entire life is based on respectabilty and his social standing in the town. His only pleasures are watching the trains on their way to Amsterdam and Paris and a night at the local chess club. When a French Policeman who is incidently named Lucas, although it is never stated if this is Maigret's loyal right hand man, turns up to investigate the souce of Dutch Bank notes Kees life starts to fall apart and with it his sanity. Kees boss explains to him that he has been robbing the firm and it is all up everyone including Kees is ruined. Kees unable to face the truth flees to Paris with Lucas hot on his trail. Once in Paris he falls for a femme fatale and gets involved with some petty gangsters. Can Lucas find him before it is to late?
The film staring Claude Rains and Herbert Lom is alse well worth a look.