Arlette, a beguiling showgirl from a seedy club in Montmartre arrives at the Quai des Orfevres late one night drunk and claiming she has overheard two men discussing the murder of a countess whilst she was performing.
During initial questioning Arlette is prickly and then overcome with tiredness, she insists on lying down to sleep.
Left alone, sometime later she suddenly wakes terrified and screaming the name “Oscar”. As Maigret tries to dig a little deeper asking if Oscar is one of the men intending to kill. But Arlette becomes increasingly defensive and suddenly rushes from the building.
The next morning news arrives that Arlette has been found murdered in her apartment.
Maigret learns from Coroner Dr Paul that Arlette was strangled by a strong man. Her identity papers are forged and Maigret suspects Arlette had a reason to hide her past.
Arriving at the scene, young inspector La Pointe is rendered unaccountably speechless at the sight of the girl.
He hurriedly excuses himself and leaves the apartment. Annoyed with himself for failing to appreciate the depth of Arlette’s troubles, back at the Quai Maigret vows to catch the killer. But he is interrupted by news that a countess has also been found strangled in a similar manner.
It’s a squalid scene and clear the countess was heavily dependent on morphine.
But what’s left of the countess’s valuables have been left untouched and a tiara found on the stairs suggest that the killer wasn’t after her money. Maigret also finds a bundle of love letters which tell of the countess’s passionate relationship with her husband. Maigret continues on a journey of discovery to unveil the truth behind the murders.
We caught up with star Rowan Atkinson. . .
What kind of world does Maigret investigate in Maigret In Montmartre?
“It’s Georges Simenon’s favourite arena, which is the seedy side of Paris. The clubs, the girls, the prostitution and the low life. Montmartre was the centre of that sort of thing in the mid-1950s.
“Also, it’s indicative of the author’s infatuation with young women. And particularly young women of the streets or young women who were forced to work in a certain way.
“The character of showgirl Arlette reflects Georges Simenon’s interest in a woman who is so completely alluring. Extremely libidinous as a teenager and then, inevitably really, ending up in a club and being used by a string of men in different ways.
“But at the same time, she has clearly got charisma and magic and she leaves her stamp. Men find her completely irresistible. That’s what the story is about. Someone who, unsurprisingly given that power she has over men, gets into a lot of trouble.
“The owner of the nightclub Fred is pretty villainous but also surprising. It’s a very interesting story. I think this is the best Maigret film yet. With some very good performances.”
Do we get to see more of a personal side of Maigret in this film?
“Yes, I think we see Maigret and his wife at their most intimate yet. It’s all very subtle. But certainly, it’s indicative of the success of their relationship. He’s definitely a happily married man.
"Maigret and his wife get on very well. And that’s important in relation to his work. Because it’s so odd for such a decent man to have to deal with such indecent people and worlds. It is that contrast between the decency and the success in relationship terms of Maigret’s own life compared to the complete and utter failure of the people he’s dealing with in this story.”
As you’ve developed the character of Maigret have you become slightly more expansive in the way you play him?
“Yes. I feel as though I started to relax with the character a bit more and have a bit more fun with Maigret and make him a little more human. Rather than just someone who is rather stern, which is how I think he was in the first couple of films. I was a bit braver with him, I suppose.”
Maigret In Montmartre is on Christmas Eve on ITV at 8.pm.